Many believe that in the near future, every industry will become automated. But what about for businesses centered around interpersonal relationships, like insurance sales?
In fact, the dystopic future agents hoped they could avoid may have already arrived: on April 1, Insurance Journal reported that the Buyonic Insurance Agency in Austin, Texas had become the world’s first robot-run, customer-facing financial services business, complete with an android, Roberto Siber, CPCU, as its sole employee. In a description sure to send a chill up even the most confident human insurance agent’s spine, the story detailed Siber’s capabilities:
"Siber is a one-unit operation. He can rate, bind and issue policies on the spot, while simultaneously answering the phones and making robocalls to prospects. He speaks every language known to humans and machines and is willing to work 24/7, although Siber says he will keep normal business hours at first."
Efficient, right? Think about what it might mean for your career in the next few years as service bots become an industry standard…
Joke’s On You?
Then consider the date of the story’s publication: April 1. Indeed, this was all a masterful April Fool’s joke by the publication, who kindly tagged the story “April Fool’s” and closed the piece with a clarifying quote for those readers thorough enough to read through to the end: “So how does Siber like his insurance gig and his owner? He said he does not know how he feels but calculated that only an April Fool would not like the insurance agency business.”
While this was enough to prompt a few laughs, there’s likely a fair amount of relief mixed in with the mirth. At first glance, we were taken in by the hoax, and the story was picked up and covered by a few other publications before they hurriedly took their articles down.
Though a joke, the very notion still hits perilously close to home. Insurance Journal itself has recently published pieces about the future of robots in the workplace and how automation will affect the insurance industry. The latter story covered a recent McKinsey & Co. report that estimates that up to 25% of jobs in the industry could be automated within the decade, no matter the personal touch typically thought to be needed for business.
The Reality of Now
While we can’t predict the future, we can speak confidently about the state of the insurance industry today – and agents aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Even while consumers are flocking to the internet to research insurance products and information in droves, when the time comes to actually purchase a policy, they overwhelmingly prefer speaking with a real person.
According to LifeHealthPro, a full 63% of consumers who research for insurance information online prefer connecting with an agent in person or via phone for guidance through the final stages of the purchasing process. It would seem that when it comes to sales (at least for certain industries) machines simply aren’t up to snuff — this might explain why Google Compare was so short-lived.
Instead of simply panicking about their impending replacement while staying complacent in their established routines, agents should instead adjust and adopt new-school techniques and technologies to optimize their sales strategies for the future. By taking advantage of forward-thinking, digital strategies like internet lead providers and pay-per-call marketing, agents can reap the benefits of some of the non-intrusive automated systems that have already been put into practice — and give themselves a leg up for the times ahead when automation becomes more of a reality, not just a prank.
(Image credit: geralt/Pixabay)