The Major Parts of an Insurance “Channel”

The insurance industry invests a lot of time, money, and other resources into channels: determining the best geography to have them (assuming we are talking about human-intermediated channels), selecting them, advising them, providing resources to them, sending information to them and getting information from them, and at times (although probably not frequently enough), terminating them.

But I’d like to take brief moment and think about “insurance channels” from a different perspective: sort of deconstruct a channel’s part, if you will.

Deconstructing the three major parts of an insurance channel

I think an insurance channel has three major parts:

  1. Paths
  2. Information sources
  3. Advisors

Each of the three major parts are undergoing changes in our social media-amplified, customer-driven, mobile-enabled, digital marketspace. (Quite a large mouthful…)

Paths

A path can take many forms:

  • Face-to-face meetings
  • Telephone (i.e. feature phone)
  • Postal mail
  • Fax
  • Email
  • Web
  • Portal (insurer or intermediary firm portal)
  • IM/SMS
  • Smartphone or other IP-enabled mobile device
  • Embedded real-time video connections in a mobile device
  • Apps for a smartphone, tablet, phablet, or computer

Some of these paths will eventually disappear or no longer be used even if the path still exists. (How much longer will fax still be used by retail or enterprise insurance clients?) And some insurance clients will prefer one or more paths over other paths just as a matter of convenience and inertia to change.

Information Sources

The number of information sources continues to expand. Family and friends as well as insurance third sources (i.e. Best’s) are still there for prospective insurance customers to get answers to their questions. But so are the “newer” online sources such as:

  • Search engines
  • Social media communities
  • Blogs
  • Rating sources (Yelp and their ilk)

Advisors

Finally we come to what most people think are the “insurance channels.”

It is not relevant if an advisor is sitting in an office; comes to your home, office, or a coffee shop; is talking to you on the phone; is interacting with you on a click-to-chat session; or is at the end of an email. If that advisor is selling you insurance, she / he must be continually trained to be licensed to sell each specific line of insurance in a specific jurisdiction.

Quick Summary

Why deconstruct an “insurance channel” in this or a similar manner? Because insurers, and insurance agents/brokers, have to realize quite quickly that each major part of the channel – paths, information sources, advisors – is and will continue to be transformed by customer expectations, current and emerging technology, and competitive dynamics.

Insurers and/or their agents/brokers who continue to plan to conduct business in a F2F world using postal mail or fax will be placing themselves at a competitive disadvantage.

Or am I wrong?