We live in a very connected world where the use of Internet and cellular connected devices are nearly ubiquitous and a necessary part of business. Everywhere you look, you see people leveraging electronic devices, which are typically tethered to the Internet, on way or another. The introduction of mobile devices has forever changed the way we live, work and communicate with one another and has provided us the flexibility to communicate and conduct business like nothing before.
According to a Cisco report in February of 2014, global mobile data traffic grew 81 percent in 2013, and mobile connection speeds more than doubled. In the financial services industry reliance on Internet connectivity for annuity order entry was successfully adopted by the wire broker dealer firms around 2012, and with such widespread Internet connectivity options available (reading the reports and industry statistics), it appeared that everyone that wanted to be connected today was connected already.
So why is disconnected technology a topic of discussion? Why would agents leverage disconnected capabilities when we have so many workable Internet connection options available today?
Let’s take a look at our industry first. Insurance sales have always been, and remain today, a relationship-centric business. Options are presented and finalized between an agent and client, face to face across a kitchen table or in coffee shops, restaurants or other public places. Typically the insurance sale is finalized in the location that is most convenient for the client, not always where the agent can guarantee an Internet connection. Even in today’s widely connected environments, a valid Internet connection to conduct business cannot be guaranteed.
But what happens when the requirement for Internet connectivity, whether slow or simply absent, gets in the way of agents conducting business electronically? It creates an instant barrier to adapting automation technology and negatively impacts the sale and client relationship. As the financial services industry continues to drive adoption of automated business processing platforms, we are realizing that salespeople in the insurance industry are open to and actually appreciate the value provided with automation, and they are more than willing to adjust and adapt to new technology with only one caveat: “Don’t get in the way of our business of selling.”
For automated electronic processing to truly gain end-user adoption and move away from the paper process, the automated solution must meet the agent and their client wherever they elect to process the business. When agents rely on an Internet connection to process sales, they can be tethered and limited. When this happens the agent reverts back to the manual paper and pen process, limiting the value provided by the investment in automation. The real value of automation investment is measured in how many end-users, who are allowed a choice, elect to use the electronic process.
With today’s mobile communication capabilities it seems counterintuitive to divert and invest in disconnected technology; but when technology enables agents to conduct business with or without Internet connectivity, you provide agents the necessary flexibility to conduct business wherever they need to. This flexibility increases adoption of automated electronic business processing solutions as it enables agents to transition from connected to disconnected modes as the situation dictates.
As an industry focused on automation, we must more intently investigate how business is sold by the salesforce just as much as we need to look at the business requirements of processing the business. When sales technology is reliant on Internet connectivity to process business, agents’ sales opportunities and client relationships can be impacted.
The ability to seamlessly transition from a disconnected mode, and then connect when a connection is available, provides the flexibility required for agents to adopt automated point-of-sale solutions.
Providing the same user experience – whether connected or disconnected, combined with automated business processing features, including in-good-order submission, built-in e-signature, multi-line business support and an intuitive user interface – empowers agents to conduct business anywhere, anytime.