As we surge with hopes of recovery with each passing day, changes that were acquired amidst the COVID-19 crisis have taught us to adapt to the 'new' normal. V. Viswanand, Deputy Managing Director, Max Life Insurance, shares how the pandemic has impacted insurance distribution and the traits needed for life insurance agents of tomorrow.
From retail to insurance, all sectors have had to adapt, as they worked towards overcoming the challenges of the year gone by.
As physical distancing continues to be a safety norm even as inoculations are being rolled out, technology remains the glue for business continuity, customer service as well as customer acquisition in the post-COVID-19 recovery phase.
This pandemic has certainly impacted insurance distribution across the world, and a country like India is no exception.
While the popularity of agents continues to run strong, even as the consumer has gravitated towards technology, one thing is clear - face-to-face distribution will remain the primary driver of new business in the life insurance space, but with significant modifications.
Customers continue to express their preference to interact with agents, especially when it comes to the policy purchase decision.
At the same time, their increasing expectations of instant advice and service, enabled through technology appears to be an unstoppable trend. It has hence become imperative for agent advisers of tomorrow to meet this growing expectation of being both, ‘hi-touch and hi-tech’.
Here are three effective traits that life insurance agents of tomorrow should cultivate to be successful:
Agents are integral to the growth and sustenance of the life insurance industry. They are the heroes who protect numerous families from the uncertainties of the future by providing timely advice on the right life insurance policies, adequate cover, risk appetite to meet one’s life goals.
In the post-pandemic world, becoming digitally savvy will not only help agents to drive better connect with existing customers but also reach out to new ones in a seamless and swift manner.
Increasing their digital presence means agent advisers can flexibly communicate with the customers via video chats or social media platforms in an era where consumers are more likely to prefer contactless or minimum contact servicing, once the initial bedrock of trust has been laid through an in-person meeting.
This will also allow moving beyond geographically defined horizons which was based on traditional local marketing tactics.
Agent Advisers can now expand their clientele much more than before, offer them products and services at absolute convenience and resolve their queries at much better turnaround times than ever before. Hence, it becomes essential for agents to understand and embrace the power of digital.
We are living in a world where millennials prefer to sift through a sea of options online while seeking bespoke solutions.
While this might be a reality in retail today, the same is fast becoming a trend in the life insurance purchase process. The days of generic advice are over. With growing access to the internet, many customers now have access to information on financial products available in the market.
Our medical practitioners have evolved to tactfully address questions from patients who do their ‘research’ online without feeling offended.
In a similar manner, the successful agent of tomorrow will have to evolve and manage a barrage of questions from her prospective clients who may come prepared with information from their online research.
Hence, the agent of the future will have to equip herself with knowledge of competitor’s products and ‘adjacent’ non-life insurance financial products, and even be able to nudge the prospect to appropriate online resources.
Agent advisers would need to develop deep expertise in life insurance products and adjacent financial products to offer custom-tailored solutions. Specialised knowledge would enable the agent advisers of tomorrow to effectively engage with consumers and help them see value in their recommendations.
Embed trust for life-long relationships
Trust is the foundation of all strong relationships and will prove to be even more valuable in the post-pandemic world.
To earn trust, agents need to put the needs of their customers first and listen carefully to them before offering advice on financial solutions.
This approach is essential to retain customers over a lifetime. In most cases, it will lead to repeat business from clients and a strong referral pipeline.
An industry veteran in the financial services sector for nearly three decades, V. Viswanand is Deputy Managing Director at Max Life Insurance and a member of the Board.
Under his belt, he is responsible for Distribution, including Proprietary Channels, Bancassurance and Third Party Business, Institutional Sales, Business Development and Distribution Operations.
He steers the strategic direction and growth of the company and leads the Max Skill First training partnership as well as the Procurement and Facilities functions.
He played an instrumental role in not only propelling the company to emerge as the industry leader in Customer Retention, Claims Paid Ratio and Customer Loyalty but also had led the Company’s wins in several global and national accolades in Quality and Technology, including the coveted Gold medal at ASQ, USA and RBNQA.
How life insurers can transform into a new-age digital hybrid sales distribution model post COVID-19
Reimagining the role of advisers to align with the future of life insurance distribution in India