Simplifying the renewal process with an online platform, one company gives agencies the power to deliver fast, secure, and accurate results
“The platform saves time for insureds by pre-populating answers from prior years and answers for duplicate
questions across different applications … .”
Account Executive and InsurTech Solutions Manager
Conner Strong & Buckelew
By Lori Widmer
When the retail world went digital, it was only a matter of time before the business world would follow. Since 2018, for example, the use of smartphones for online shopping has more than doubled, according to PwC research. The biggest shift in consumer habits happened in 2020 as businesses had to shift quickly from physical to online interactions.
That digitization has pushed business owners to shift their own processes to meet similar consumer demands. “The digitization of consumer services like Amazon has created demand for the consumerization of business processes,” says Jason Keck, CEO and co-founder of Broker Buddha, the digital client engagement platform founded in 2017 that simplifies the application and renewal processes for insurance agencies.
The expectation, says Keck, is faster, more accurate service and delivery. “We get exposed to fantastic experiences online through a lot of these consumer services, whether it’s social media or marketplaces like Amazon, or things of that nature. It becomes easy to ask the question, ‘Why aren’t my service providers offering me similar experiences?’”
Not that automation in the insurance industry is new, Keck adds. But it is being applied more liberally across the workflow process. That enables agencies of all sizes to reduce workloads and improve customer service and satisfaction.
It’s been a slow process, however. Agencies, Keck says, don’t often have a big appetite for risk, and change is required to transition to a new process. “It’s scary. And until it’s proven, it’s not necessarily worth the risk in their minds.”
Broker Buddha, he says, eliminates the risk. The process is moved online and gives both agents and customers a window into their submissions. Moreover, the platform delivers a way for agents to interact directly with customers.
The view from inside
For agents, the platform gives them an immediate view into their client accounts and applications. Agents can set up applications via web forms. “Agents construct the submission using multiple applications and then just send that link to the customer. Instead of receiving an email with three PDFs that you have to download and print, you receive a link that takes you to the online interface where you can see answers to your questions. And it’s interactive,” Keck says, meaning customers can sign the PDF virtually.
For the agent, the payoff is clear. “It’s peace of mind. The amount of headspace and mental energy required to keep track of outstanding applications—at any given time, you might have anywhere from five to 20 requests in process.” Plus, there’s communicating with the customer on where their application is in the lifecycle of that application, he adds. Broker Buddha manages that process, and agents will get information in real-time, and will be able to create a better customer experience.
An added bonus: Employee recruitment and retention is made that much easier. “Any time you can replace what would be considered monotonous administrative work with an intuitive online experience, you’re doing a service not only for your clients but also for your team,” Keck says.
The user’s experience
For Taruja Deshmukh, Broker Buddha has lived up to the promise it makes to customers. Deshmukh, account executive and InsurTech Solutions manager for Conner Strong & Buckelew, says the platform took care of many of her firm’s pain points. “Collecting, completing, and reviewing renewal applications and other information every year can be very time-consuming for both the broker and the insured. It’s a headache for the client and, as a manual process, is prone to errors and inaccuracies.”
However, since implementing Broker Buddha, Deshmukh says that the results the company promises to streamline the application and renewal process are there. For a once-manual process that Deshmukh describes as a “headache” for the client, digitizing the collection, completion, and review of renewal applications is now much simpler. “The platform saves time for insureds by pre-populating answers from prior years and answers for duplicate questions across different applications, and saves time for the broker by automatically highlighting updates and changes in insured exposures.”
When selecting a technology, Deshmukh says that Broker Buddha’s offering stood out for a few reasons. “We were impressed by the technologies capabilities, but also by the responsiveness and agility of the Broker Buddha team in continually innovating to address customer needs.”
Her firm brought in employees from various departments and service levels to evaluate and demo the platform. “This enabled us to get diverse and direct user perspectives on the platform and ask the right questions in reviewing the capabilities and workflows.”
Also, Deshmukh says her firm was impressed with Broker Buddha’s affiliation with BrokerTech Ventures. “As they were a member of the first BrokerTech Ventures Accelerator cohort, we knew the team was collaborative, forward-thinking and highly focused on the needs of large commercial brokers. The platform itself is also very modern and intuitive, and the approach to the pricing model is efficient.”
Deshmukh says her company phased the product in over time. The reason: The internal- and external-facing elements of the platform made onboarding slightly more complex. So, the company took more time to implement. “We took a staggered approach to onboarding, starting with just two to three teams and expanding to more and more teams over the course of several months to a year,” she says.
The rollout came with plenty of support, according to Deshmukh. “We utilized the Broker Buddha team for group and one-on-one live training with our employees, as well as their white glove service offerings. We created detailed training guides that incorporated our agency’s specific policies and procedures, and we made sure to have a few ‘power users’ within our agency that were able to help with support and training as we expanded the use of the platform.”
Likewise, Broker Buddha specialists provided onboarding support, which included user guides and video overviews. What worked best for the company in terms of getting customers on board, Deshmukh says, was letting employees take charge. “We found it most effective to have our employees, once trained, take the lead on reviewing the platform with their clients. Providing clear explanations on the benefits of the solution, in conjunction with an already intuitive platform, helped this process go smoothly.”
For anyone considering implementation of a digital platform such as Broker Buddha, Deshmukh offers this advice: “As with any new technology, a critical driver in adoption was having internal champions supporting the transition to this new process and sharing positive feedback received from both employees and clients to keep excitement and momentum up.”
For fellow independent agents and brokers, Deshmukh offers this advice: “As with many other processes our customers go through, the demand for digital tools is increasing, and it would behoove brokers that do not already have a tool like this, to invest in one sooner rather than later.”
Innovating for insurance agents
Business customers will demand a more streamlined digital experience, and agents will be pressed to deliver, says Keck. In fact, he has seen agencies whose customers are pushing hard for it. “We just had an agency come to us saying that one of their clients was demanding that the agency use our tool because it was used at another agency.”
To meet what Keck believes will be a current and growing demand for a more integrated customer experience, the company made a key decision that will deliver more options to their customers. “The insurance agents we work with really want a lot of their tools and functionality integrated into a single experience,” says Keck.
That led to the company joining forces with Acturis, a SaaS provider of a cloud-based agency management system. Now, Broker Buddha clients have access to an integrated way to run their agency more efficiently and from one platform.
Pushing the industry toward automation, Keck says, will give agencies the ability not only to clear up workloads, but to deliver real value to clients. Employees, he says, will be able to focus their energies on customer-facing activities, and easily track customer applications. Business owners, he says, expect real-time, multi-channel access to their insurance information. By opening that avenue for them, agents can build a bridge that solidifies a more unified relationship with the customer.
Lori Widmer is a Philadelphia-based writer and editor who specializes in insurance and risk management.
BrokerTech Spotlight offers a look at insurtech offerings from startups that have partnered with BrokerTech Ventures (BTV), a convening platform for brokers, carriers and wholesalers, and tech firms, and includes insight from other BTV member owners.