I recall a day when a prospective client came into my office, sat at my desk, and asked for a quote. I would have to open a manual and write down the figures based on the driver’s gender, age, marital status, and what he claimed was his driving record. Then, in a different section of the manual, I’d look up the model of the car. Most cars were the same price for liability insurance. They differed in cost if the insured wanted full coverage. A factor or symbol would apply based on a scale of 1 to 35. Most cars fell in the 5 to 7 range. A luxury car would fall in the 12 to 15 zone. The higher the number, the more costly the full coverage insurance.
When I bought my first IBM personal computer, I used a spreadsheet program called Lotus 123. I plugged in all the rating factors from each of the companies. Then I programmed a macro to calculate the price when I plugged in the prospect’s age, gender, and other factors. My mom used to tease me about how she could calculate the price in her head. She had hundreds of prices from twenty different companies memorized. As I perfected my program, soon I could calculate the costs faster than her, especially if the client had multiple cars and drivers.
Soon, the companies stopped giving us manuals and sent us floppy disks with their proprietary software. That was a nightmare because I’d have to insert each disk, quote that company, pull that disk out, and insert the next one. Soon I learned how to read the factor tables hidden on their disks and plug them into my spreadsheet.
Rating a policy was the first thing that technology made more efficient. We still had to fill out forms and applications by hand. The challenge forced me to learn how to format an application in Microsoft Word that would look like the company original. I could tab between fields and complete an application with keystrokes rather than type it with a carbon sheet on the typewriter or fill it out by hand. Insurance company representatives used to visit my office asking me how I did it. No, I would not give them the technology I worked so hard to create. Soon, their disks would come out with application forms—mine were still more legible.
Along came the comparative rating system. Several vendors competed to gather the various rates and put them into a single data entry system. After inputting the data once, the computer displayed the cheapest to the most expensive, with all the payment options. Now that saved time. I still used my proprietary system to print the application.
Asking for a check made payable to the company, then stapling it to the application which got mailed to the company never changed until the turn of the century. A few companies programmed a website to complete the application online to transmit the data, and some even started taking credit card payments at the end. Most companies still required a check to be sent in to match it up with the application at the home office. What a nightmare. Checks got lost and policies canceled. Soon, they created a way for the company to draw money electronically out of the agent’s checking accounts after depositing the insured’s cash.
Now, everything is in the cloud. I can still single-enter the client data into a secure website that tells me which company is the cheapest, based on what the prospect declares. Then, the data bridges to that company’s website, where I get an exact quote after checking driving records, C.L.U.E. reports, criminal reports, and credit reports. If the prospective client wants the policy, I take the debit or credit card information, plug it into the computer, and email the application to the client for an electronic signature.
Asking again, “Does technology make the experience better?” I can honestly answer yes. Everything happens lightning fast compared to thirty years ago. No more waiting a month for the policy to get issued. Now it happens real-time, instantly. What we lack, though, is human interaction, a handshake, and eye contact.