Just about every mature industry fears disruption — from competition, shifting consumer trends or obsolescence. Deloitte Center for Financial Services insurance researcher Sam Friedman recently wrote about the four decades he’s spent watching and writing about all the threats that would eventually subsume our neighborhood insurance agents.
When it comes down to it, “agents will likely thrive if they leverage their experience and interpersonal skills.”1
In Cornelia, Georgia Allstate insurance agency owner Heath Barrett, a Kinetic Business by Windstream customer, began in 2015 with less than $1 million of policies in force. Today, he’s managing roughly $2.4 million, he says.
Small business customer service is a cornerstone of Barrett’s growing agency.
It’s All Internet Based
Kinetic Business by Windstream is the preferred ISP of dozens of personal and commercial insurance offices like Heath Barrett’s across its 18-state footprint, and separately, they all say the same thing. Insurance competition is tough, and insurance agency technology must be part of the game plan.
Why? First, insurance policies today are managed within online platforms, often by cloud computing.
“We do 85 percent of our business — I can attest to this number, 85 percent — over the computer, or over the phone which is over our computers. It’s all Internet-based. If we go down, we’re dead in the water on 85 percent of our revenue,” Barrett said.
Yet, uncertainties seem to be on the rise. Maybe it’s the rising incidents of natural disasters (heavy storms, wicked wildfires) or cyberattacks — two-thirds of the victims of cyber attacks are classified as small businesses, and more than half are unable to sustain their businesses just six months later2 — but more and more businesses are migrating business systems and data to the cloud.
Most of the biggest companies — Fortune 500 multinationals — have made the move. For them, it has as much to do with cost efficiencies and scalability — the advantage of scaling whole systems up or down with shifting demand or resources — as it does third-party expert protection. The most recent RightScale State of the Cloud report shows 84 percent of companies with more than 1,000 employees have a multiple cloud computing strategy.3
Not To Miss An Opportunity
Secondly, insurance competition at the local agency level is about human connection. It’s about fine-tuning coverages based on a sales discovery process. It’s about hustling to meet a client in the field. It’s about calling them with a plan or payment improvement they didn’t know about. In short, customer service in the insurance industry means lots of communication.
Kinetic Business Connected Office UC™ is a Swiss Army answer to the question of how to improve customer service in a small business. It facilitates sales and consultation phone calls across all of your business platforms, and with the presence and availability features, you even know what other sales agents are around for new business introductions, help or advice.
Megan Odom at Southern Insurance in Blakely, Georgia, says her office’s adoption of Kinetic Business Connected Office UC™ means she can be doing her job in two places at once.
“You know, we have to inspect buildings and properties in the field. The phones, the way they’re set up, my cell phone rings when my office phone does, so whether I’m here or not I can still take care of my clients,” she said. “Connected Office UC has really helped us not to miss an opportunity, so to speak.”
What’s more, the platform actually saved the company money over technologies they had employed previously, she said. That’s a small business customer service solution that remembers you’re a customer, too!
One of the ways Taylor Goff’s The McKay Group insurance office in Knoxville, Iowa, has flanked its insurance competition is by specializing in insuring sports events, human athletic competitions like races — “anything that doesn’t have a motor,” she says.
Today’s Speed And Tomorrow’s Scale
What The McKay Group needed some time ago was a serious upgrade to lightning-fast Internet. The office invested in new network lines and a provision surge of Kinetic Business 100 megabits per second (Mbps) Internet. Like Barrett and Odom, Goff’s office relies on VoIP telephones.
The importance of Internet bandwidth (speed) isn’t just the load a home or office draws on a network today, but what will tomorrow bring?
Now, The McKay Group’s super-reliable, super-fast Internet can easily run video conferencing, cloud data uploads or video streaming across multiple devices and still handle IP telephony without interruption or attenuation. That’s today. Tomorrow it may take on software-as-a-service (SaaS) platforms like Adobe’s Suite or Salesforce that require an ample connection.
That’s why Windstream is announcing new 1-gig fiber Internet turnups at more than 100,000 commercial locations throughout the year. Optical fiber lines are dedicated IP network grids (unlike 20th century copper and coaxial cable). They’re 21st century infrastructure. Windstream is making an investment in the most reliable, biggest bandwidth network technology available. And this powerful Kinetic Business pipeline undergirds service speeds that can scale up depending on a business’s needs.
Technology may feel like the “anti-” small business customer service piece, but it’s not — it’s how to improve customer service in a small business. The time for a capital investment in insurance agency technology is now.
“Our own database is IP-based. Everything we’re working out of throughout the day is cloud-based. I mean, if we don’t have that working we can’t do anything,” Goff said.
Whether it’s their Internet connection or the products and solutions carried over that connection, Kinetic Business is remodeling insurance agency technology because these offices are scaling up to meet the needs of a “changing” customer base in search of something quite traditional — small business customer service.
They have chosen Barrett’s Allstate, Southern Insurance or The McKay Group because of a human connection, but that means connecting whenever, wherever they’re needed.
Kinetic Business is growing its fiber Internet footprint and raising its reliability — and ensuring reliability with its 4G LTE wireless Internet backup product — so that our ‘uptime’ is our customers’.
We’re the speed piece, the communications piece and the reliability piece that can swing insurance competition. Agents can leverage our services and backbone for a customer experience advantage. Take a visit to our business blog for other insights on how to improve customer service in a small business.