Chief Customer Chat: What we’re hearing from agencies about the agent/carrier relationship
By: Cassidy Smirnow
We’ve all heard it before because it’s true—the insurance industry is all about relationships. Whether building trust with clients or establishing a solid exchange between insurers and independent agents, we know that building a strong rapport is essential for creating a better customer experience and increasing productivity.
A few months ago, Vertafore partnered with Celent, a leading research and advisory firm, to take a deeper dive into the evolving relationships between carriers and independent agencies. We wanted to know, with factors like a hypercompetitive market, changing consumer expectations, and concerns about direct-to-consumer models, how can insurers maintain strong relationships with independent agents and stay their top choice?
Celent surveyed a group of independent agents to understand what areas are most likely to give insurers an edge. Here is what they found in their report, Optimizing the Independent Agent Experience.
Keeping things easy
It’s no surprise that competitive price is still the main driver of production. But 76% of agents surveyed also said they would send more business to insurers that improved their technology and made it easier.
Independent agencies constantly feel the pressure to set themselves apart by meeting modern consumer expectations while also providing competitive coverage options. They are adjusting their decision-making process based on capabilities that will support them in selling more and providing an excellent experience for their employees and clients.
For insurers, the path to drive growth is offering and supporting technologies that make it as easy as possible for agents to place business. Our industry will likely only get more complicated as we experience increasing channel complexity and more regulations. This is an opportunity for insurers to improve the agent experience with the potential to reduce costs along the way.
It’s clear that ease of doing business is at the top of the list for independent agents and that technology is the key to getting there. But the survey also looked at which specific components would be considered deal-breakers for agents. When asked which technology aspects affect their decisions about insurers most, 85% of respondents said that the ability to process all transaction types is important to them, and 33% in that group indicated that they would not place business without it.
It’s simple: the more that agents can do in one place, the more they will do, and speed is a high priority. They know that they need to process business quickly to stay competitive. Not only does this affect profit margins, but it’s also critical in delivering the stellar customer service their clients expect. As it stands now, agents indicated that fast underwriting, mobile tools, instant issue, and comparative rating are the top areas that they would like to see insurers make additional investments.
Compliance is another key factor on the mind of agents, especially when it comes to licensing. More than 70% of the agents surveyed said that the ability to manage licenses easily is a very important factor when choosing an insurer.
Growth is the keyword on everyone’s mind, and this response is indicative of that. Industry trends show that we can expect even more complexity in an already complicated industry. Agents are looking to work with insurers with simple, error-free licensing and compensation transactions. Whether it’s an M&A or hiring new staff, insurers who can efficiently support agents with compliance — from onboarding through ongoing maintenance — will show the value they place on their relationships with agents.
Compliance is also an area where insurers can lean on technology for support. With all the advantages of automation, insurers have the opportunity to connect directly with agents, offer them better communication and convenient self-service, and become a carrier of choice.
There are a lot of ideas about how insurers can optimize the independent agent experience and gain more business. Still, there’s no doubt that technology is the linchpin in the relationships between insurers and agencies and agents and policyholders. As independent agents choose who to work with, alignment between agents and insurers on tools and technology will continue to be a significant factor in the decision-making process.
Cassidy Smirnow is Vertafore’s resident customer expert with a passion for building customer-first cultures that transform businesses. With a proven track record of improving customer retention and enabling teams to provide best-in-class customer experiences, Cassidy is the embodiment of the Vertafore Way principle, “Customer Success is Our Success."