“The Digital Broker Podcast – Episode 012: Text Messaging For Insurance Agencies (How To Implement)”
by Steve Anderson and Ryan Deeds

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Summary:

This episode of the Digital Broker podcast is the second of a two-part series on text messaging for insurance agencies.

Steve and Ryan discuss the “nuts and bolts” of using text messages for agency communication. Together, they provide examples of how text messaging can help your agency:

  • Improve your client’s experience.
  • Retain and acquire new business.
  • Streamline communication internally among agency employees.

Full Recap:

In the second of a two-part series on texting (listen to part 1 here), Steve and Ryan discuss the “nuts and bolts” of using text messaging for agency communications and how to implement different use cases.

By thinking creatively about the many ways in which this popular form of communication can be used, agencies can improve engagement and better serve their current customers –and possibly secure some new ones.

Texting and Agency Management Systems

Because it is so valuable for agencies to be able to manage and document text message communications — both inbound and outbound — Steve recommends that agencies upgrade to one of the several agency management vendors who have added (or are adding) texting as an integral part of their platform.

How it Works

Typically, when texting capabilities are added to your platform, it works like email: the outbound message is automatically attached to the client file. For an inbound message, the system will either track the email address associated with a client file and then automatically attach it to that file, or you can drag and drop that email and attach it to client file.

When an agency adds texting capabilities to their platform, they receive an assigned phone number specifically for texting purpose. When a text message is sent to a client from this specifically assigned number, a copy of that text message automatically gets attached to the client’s file in the AMS. The AMS is able to do this by matching the client’s number stored in the AMS database to the phone number the text message was sent to.

The AMS will then send that conversation into an email to the assigned agent. From there the agent no longer has to use their physical phone to have an ongoing text message conversation with their client. They can then read and reply to the text all within their email system.

If the AMS cannot match the client’s phone number from the text message to the client’s number stored in the AMS database, then the text message is routed to a generic inbox where someone at the agency can manually try to identify which client this conversation is associated to. (3:30)

Alerts and Notifications

There are a number of systems with options for sending notifications to clients. This type of proactive communication provides agencies more opportunities to engage with their clients and to better control the client experience.

For example, one system allows the agency to send an alert, based on a clients preferred method of communication, and if there is a download of a notice of intent to cancel then that individual receives a text alerting them that they need to make a payment. Another significant opportunity for agencies to use text is with claims-related communications and updates.

Although it can present a challenge for independent agencies because very few carriers have these types of capabilities, this should not stop agencies from experimenting with texting. It just takes some creativity to figure out where that technology fits most effectively.   (9:00)

As discussed in greater depth in Part 1 of this series on texting, it is also important to note that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requires that when sending this type of notification you receive written consent to do so. In addition, you must provide a mechanism for the customer to opt out. (10:50)

Texting for Internal Communications

Experimenting with text messaging for internal agency communications can be a valuable option as well.

Ryan describes an app he built for his agency using an API from a texting software named Twilio. The app allows the agency to send messages and alerts to employees via text that keep everyone on the same page. For example, text messages regarding office closings, server issues, events, weather, employee benefits, etc., and the employees have the option to opt in or out of receiving any of these texts.   (12:20)

Another example of using Twilio in an innovative way (with another API, Ask Kodiak) is a solution Ryan built whereby producers can send in an NAIC or SIC code and they will receive on their phone a list of coverages and the carriers in their agency that write that line of business. This is another simple solution any producer can use, regardless of their technology ability, and that can them help gain expertise and increase credibility with the client. (15:50)

Capturing the Text Communications

Because documenting their text communications is critical for agency employees, they must take great care to capture those phone communications and get them into the agency management system. Until a centralized process is in place, taking a screen shot of the conversation remains the best way to do this.

A couple of tools to make this screen capture process easier are:

  • iExplorer – Software product; plug phone into it and it creates PDF versions of entire conversations; eliminates need for multiple screenshots
  • Workflow– App that helps streamline the emailing of screenshots; use for iOS platforms; with one tap commend can capture multiple screenshots and send via email.

For even greater compliance and proper E&O protection, Steve recommends that agency employees always send an email back to the client, summarizing any text conversation. (19:50)

Text for Inbound Marketing

Inbound text marketing is another way that agencies can engage and communicate with clients and prospects. A common example is where consumers are asked to text a word to a number to get more information about a product or service. Although some of the options for implementing this are expensive, there are some more viable options, especially if an agency is willing to get creative.

Ryan describes a couple fun and unique ways his agency used inbound text marketing to engage consumers and begin a relationship.

One way was by asking consumers to text a selfie to the agency number, then, by using a vision API, they send back demographic information to the consumer. After receiving confirmation from the consumer that the demographic information is accurate, the agency then sends them a life insurance quote.

Another example is where the agency asked people to send a photo of their room, and then used a vision API to identify what in the room could be insured and evaluate potential risks and coverage gaps.   (22:30)

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