It is often said that all forms of art have a way of being prophetic. Take Isaac Asimov’s 1976 novella Bicentennial Man for example, which deals with the complex relationship between man and machine and the effect that technology has on the human population.
In the 1999 film of the same title, the president of NorthAm Robotics, a company that makes robotic servants, says of advancements in robot technology, “There is a fear that robots will continue to make the human work force obsolete.” It is interesting to note that the original story was written some years before Internet reached the general population and still more years before the invention of working humanoid robots and yet still expresses the fear of technology replacing actual humans.
Now, however, more and more employers are moving toward online enrollment, in which their employees review and choose insurance options on the Internet without assistance. The options themselves remain the same, listed from most basic coverage to most extensive, while cutting out the need to bring in a broker or other insurance representative to speak to all of the employees at once.
Naturally, such new technologies are still in their early stages in terms of how far they will be utilized in the benefits selling industry, though there is no doubt in the minds of some that it will eventually overtake the greater need for brokers. Jeremy Tuckfelt, a broker in Pittsburgh, says that he has not yet seen a personal effect to his business but is sure that it is coming.
Additionally, many people are still wary of providing personal information online due to the equally important fear of cyber crime, so there will always be a faction of people who will not choose online enrollment. The greatest issue comes in attempting to maneuver the younger generations who are so used to doing everything (including communicating) online.
Tuckfelt believes that this complication can be overcome the same way as maintaining older clients: by adding the personal touch that only a broker can provide. Virtual assistants, he says, will become commonplace in the industry with preprogrammed answers to typical client questions and an actual broker standing by to answer the more personal questions.