Tag Archives: j.d. power

Does Amazon Threaten Home Insurers?

Amazon has made no secret of its intent to disrupt virtually every industry on the planet, most recently announcing a partnership with JPMorgan Chase and Berkshire Hathaway to create an independent healthcare company. Reportedly, the retail giant has also begun to explore the idea of setting up an insurance price comparison site in the U.K.

The formula is now clear. Amazon and other consumer-first digital disruptors like Google set their sights on a conventional industry with aging distribution and marketing channels, then things start to change rapidly. With an insurtech revolution already starting to brew in the home insurance marketplace, how long will it be before the likes of Amazon and Google enter the market in a serious way? And, if they do, will customers welcome them?

While industry incumbents like State Farm, Allstate and Progressive have begun to speculate on potential scenarios for this kind of digital disruption, J.D. Power’s P&C insurance industry practice went right to the source – the consumer – to ask how real home insurance customers would feel about the presence of tech companies in this space.

Following were the key findings from the J.D. Power Pulse Survey:

20% of Consumers Would Use Amazon or Google for Home Insurance

The data revealed that 20% of consumers would use an Amazon or Google for their home insurance. Millennials showed even higher interest at 33% for Amazon and 23% for Google. Of those who indicated that they would be willing to switch, 80% currently have insurance with a large national carrier.

See also: What if Amazon Entered Insurance?  

75% of Consumers Interested in Home Telematics

While most of the media’s attention has focused on the future of automation technology in automobiles, the disruption to your home experience – and by extension your home insurance – through smart home technologies is likely to have an equal or greater impact.

Smart home technologies are revolutionizing many areas of the home, from simple comfort features that can now turn lights on and off or access in-home entertainment by control of your phone to home security and emergency support with automatic shutoffs and alerts.

The insurance industry wants in on the action. Insurers see smart home technologies as an opportunity to deepen their relationships with customers, while improving home coverage options and underwriting. While leading home insurance carriers have begun to venture into these areas, not much research has been done to understand the consumer’s demand as these features become available. Based on the J.D. Power Pulse Survey, following are insights into the current consumer appetite for this type of technology:

  • Top areas for insurtech disruption: Among consumers polled, following are the top area of their relationship with their home insurance provider that needs the greatest improvement:
    • Product Options/Coverages – 20%
    • Underwriting Sophistication – 15%
    • Claims – 14%
  • Top insurtech technologies: Among consumers polled, following are the top technologies consumers are most excited about coming to the insurance industry:
    • Cybersecurity – 36%
    • Blockchain – 25%
    • Internet of Things (IoT) – 24%
  • 75% of consumers are interested in home telematics. While the bulk of talk on telematics has been focused in the automotive space, home insurance customers are overwhelmingly interested in getting discounts on their homeowners insurance for proper home maintenance and security.
  • 46% of consumers would be willing to allow their home insurance company access to smart home sensor technology in appliances, such as refrigerators and air conditioners to help prevent loss and malfunction (smart tech loss prevention). 56% of consumers who currently have “smart” tech in their home would allow access

See also: 5 Misunderstandings on Home Insurance  

  • 34% of consumers would likely switch to a home insurance company that offered smart home technology loss and protection options:
    • 57% of millennials would likely switch
    • 40% of consumers who currently have “smart” tech in their home would be likely to switch (64% of consumers reported having some sort of smart tech in their home, such as a smart thermostat, doorbell, etc.)

New Power Shift in P&C Insurance

P&C insurance carriers have witnessed a lot of changes in the past decade, but few have been as surprising as the shift of power currently taking place across the industry.

According to Dennis Chookaszian, the former CEO and chair of CNA, carriers maintain only 40% of profits today, representing a drop of 20 to 25 points from the 1960s. An equal share now goes to the distribution system, as carriers line up to acquire and maintain more customers.

What’s behind this shift in profitability can’t be summed up in a single word, but increasing competition, new market entrants, improving technology, changing customer expectations and continued consumer price sensitivity all play a role.

To remain competitive, carriers will need to gain more control over distribution, a goal that even Chookaszian admits will not be easy to achieve.

Why the Power-Shift Toward Distribution

In the mid-part of the last decade, insurance carriers required two primary competencies to operate: data and capital. Because neither was easy to acquire, competition was less robust, and incumbent carriers found greater profitability, taking in roughly two-thirds of insurance transaction profits.

Today, data is everywhere, and through the use of analytics, simpler than ever to understand and use. Capital is also easier to acquire, as is evidenced by the growing number of insurtech players in the industry. According to Willis Towers Watson, $2.3 billion was invested in new insurance tech companies in 2017.

According to Chookaszian, the core competency for insurers now lies in distribution and control of the customer.

“It’s become so competitive that the carriers basically are always out looking for new accounts,” Chookaszian says.

That means higher commissions are paid to agents as carriers battle it out for market share, resulting in shrinking margins.

“Given the shift in profitability to distribution, the carriers that will be better off will try to regain some control over distribution,” Chookaszian says.

Admittedly, that is not an easy thing to do. The agent enterprise is part and parcel of most insurance operations. Directly selling insurance to consumers will require insurers to set up their own distribution systems, while still supporting their vast networks of independent or captive agent forces.

See also: The Future of P&C Distribution  

Distribution Goes Digital

When Benjamin Franklin started the first successful U.S.-based insurance company in 1752, he was dealing with a localized Philadelphia population, but, by the end of the 18th century, citizens were moving westward, making it necessary for insurers to expand their distribution networks.

The Hartford made the first foray into direct distribution by offering insurance through the mail, but few consumers of the time were willing to give up the personal services of an agent when it came to purchasing something as critical as insurance. Carriers of the time faced a similar dilemma as carriers do today: how to acquire customers in a changing marketplace.

According to the J.D. Power 2018 US. Insurance Shopping Study, insurers are aggressively courting customers with new options and amenities as auto insurance rates remain stagnant and the number of consumers seeking coverage declines.

“We’re entering an era of consumer-centric insurance that will likely be marked by a surge in new digital offerings and serious efforts by insurers to improve the auto insurance shopping experience,” says Tom Super, director of the property and casualty insurance practice at J.D. Power.

This shift is happening across all lines of coverage, even small commercial.

While citizens on the new 17th-century frontier may have been hesitant to buy coverage without the guidance of an agent, many 21st-century buyers have no such qualms. Nearly half of consumers responding to a survey conducted by Clearsurance said that they would purchase an insurance policy online, while 65% believe this will be the primary channel for purchasing coverage within the next five years.

According to research conducted by Accenture, consumers are open to a number of new possibilities when it comes to buying the policies they need:

Power in the form of profits may have shifted to distribution, but consumers are making a power play of their own, demanding greater service and amenities and taking their business to the carrier most capable of meeting preferences and price points. In a world of shifting power, creating an active, online distribution channel puts more of the profit back into the carrier’s bottom line and allows it to attract more customers in three distinct ways.

Cutting Transaction Costs

According to a report from the Geneva Association, the leading international insurance think tank for strategically important insurance and risk management issues, 40% of P&C premiums are absorbed by transaction costs, leading to inflated policy pricing that drives away potential customers. PwC pegs distribution as a heavy culprit, reporting that 30% of the cost of an insurance product is eaten up in distribution.

On the other hand, Bain predicts that insurers could cut the cost of acquisition by as much as 43% through digitalization. Underwriting expenses could drop as much as 53%.

Reducing these costs allows insurers to present a more attractively priced product to consumers, an important consideration given that 50% of customers base their loyalty with an insurer on price.

To understand how costs are reduced through digital distribution, it helps to understand how a leading digital distribution platform works to raise efficiency. According to PwC, up to 80% of the underwriting process can be consumed by administrative tasks that require manual workarounds, such as re-entering information into multiple systems.

Much of this re-inputting of data is due to the siloed nature of insurers’ administration systems. Digital distribution platforms create a layer between the front-end online storefront, where customers enter application data, and the back-end systems used to store information.

As consumers enter their personal details into the online application, all back-end systems are populated automatically, eliminating the need for manual work-arounds. Everyone across the organization has the same view of the customer and access to any information that has been provided.

Digital platforms are also masters of straight-through processing, automating the quote-to-issue lifecycle and reducing the need for manual underwriting. By automatically quoting, binding and issuing routine policies, insurers reduce costs and also provide a more “informed basis for pricing and loss evaluation,” according to PwC.

As costs drop, insurers are also able to more competitively price insurance coverage. Lower prices win more customers allowing insurers to take back some of the profitability of distribution.

Improving Customer Experiences

When it comes to insurer-insured relationships, there is a gap between what consumers want and what insurers provide. Consumers rate the following points as very important aspects of the insurance buying experience:

  • Clear and easy information on policies
  • Access to information whenever it is needed
  • Ability to compare rates and switch plans
  • A wide range of services

But few consumers agree their insurer is meeting these expectations:

27% see clear and easy information on policies

29% report access to information whenever they need it

21% say there is the ability to compare rates and switch plans

24% see a wide range of services

The customer experience is becoming a key differentiator across the insurance industry. McKinsey reports two to four times higher growth and 30% higher profitability for insurers that provide best-in-class customer service, but here’s the rub. Only the top quartile of carriers fall into this category.

Becoming a customer experience leader requires insurers to understand that the separate functions associated with policy sales and distribution appear as a single journey to consumers. They expect to quote, bind and issue multiple policies through a single application, using as many channels as they feel necessary to get the job done.

While 80% of consumers touch a digital channel at least once during an insurance transaction, 45% of auto insurance shoppers use multiple channels when making a purchase. They expect to be recognized across these channels, picking up in one where they left off in another.

The multiple back-end systems employed by most insurers present a strategic dilemma here, as well as in the area of cost containment. Without transparency between channels, consumers are forced to restart a transaction every time they change their engagement method.

“It amounts to a great deal of frustration for the consumer,” says Tom Hammond, president U.S. operations, BOLT. “You start an application online and then call the customer-facing call center, and they can’t see what you did through the online storefront.”

Hammond explains that digital distribution needs to be omni-channel distribution, seamlessly integrated with a single view of the customer. It’s the only way to meet consumer experience expectations now and into the future.

Thanks to advances in analytics and artificial intelligence, the amount of data that is available to carriers has grown significantly, and consumers expect that information to be leveraged for their benefit. Eighty percent of consumers want personalized offers and pricing from their insurers.

Progressive is one of the 22% of carriers currently making strides to offer personalized, real-time digital services, having recently released HomeQuote Explorer. From an app or computer, consumers can enter information once and receive side-by-side comparisons from multiple homeowners insurance providers. According to the company, they leverage a network of home insurers to make sure customers can find the coverage they need at a comfortable price.

Oliver Lauer, head of architecture/head of IT innovation at Zurich, believes these collaborative networks are an integral part of the digital future of insurance.

“Digital innovation means you have to develop your insurance company to an open and digitally enabled platform that can interface with everybody every time in real time – from customers to brokers, to other insurers, but also to fintechs and insurtechs,” Lauer says.

Using a digitally enabled market network, insurers can fill product gaps and even meet customer needs when they don’t have an appetite for the risk. The premise is simple. By offering coverage from other insurers, they maintain the customer relationship and reap the rewards of loyalty.

As society changes and consumer needs evolve, the ability to personalize bundled coverage to the needs of the individual will become increasingly important. Consumers are now looking for coverage to mitigate risk in previously unheard-of areas, such as cyber security, identity theft and even activities related to legalized marijuana.

When an insurer is unable to provide the coverage a customer needs, it risks forfeiting that relationship, and any other policies bundled with it, to another carrier. But when the carrier takes part in a market network, it can bundle the appropriate coverage from another insurer with its own products, personalizing the coverage to better fit the needs of the customer.

See also: Key Strategic Initiatives in P&C  

Digital platforms offering market networks also set the stage for insurers to offer ancillary services, such as roadside assistance, that make their insurance products more attractive to consumers. We see this happening with increasing frequency as carriers seek to improve the customer experience and lift their acquisition efforts.

DMC Insurance, a provider of commercial transportation insurance solutions, recently announced a partnership with BlackBerry Radar. The venture would provide transportation companies with real-time data on vehicle location, as well as cargo-related information, such as temperature, humidity, door status and load state. Information like this will help companies better manage risk.

In the personal lines market, insurers are partnering to offer services that enhance the life of their customers. Allstate’s partnership with OpenBay allows consumers to review repair shops and schedule an appointment from an app. Allianz is helping home owners safeguard properties by partnering with Panasonic on sensors that monitor home functions and report issues. Customers can even schedule repairs through the service.

Digital Distribution Benefits All

J.D. Power reveals that digital insurers are winning the intense battle for market share in the insurance industry, starting a shift that could help level the profitability field between distributors and carriers. In a recent insurance shopper survey, overall satisfaction was six points higher for digital insurers over those that sell through independent agents. This lead grows to 12 points when compared with carriers with exclusive agents.

According to research by IDC, digital succeeds on the strength of its data. The ability to collect and analyze the vast stores of data available through these interactions, including such variables as the time of day the consumer shopped for coverage, the channel the consumer used, and stores of information collected from third-parties as part of the automated application process, provides the key to improved customer service.

“By analyzing this data, insurers can understand each customer’s lifestyle, behaviors and preferences in order to engage with them at the right time and place, offer personalized service and offers and more,” says Andy Hirst, vice president of banking solutions, SAP Banking Industry Business Unit.

As insurers create omni-channel engagement, they’re strengthening distribution from every angle, giving consumers the option to quote coverage online when it’s most convenient for them, and then buy it right then and there or to seamlessly call an agent to discuss their options and their risk.

Customer experience is rapidly becoming the foundation of success in the industry, and digital distribution provides the first link in building that base of core customer satisfaction. By providing consumers with multiple channels of engagement and the ability to meet more of their needs at any time, day or night, carriers are taking back the lead on profitability.

Customer Experience Leaders Widen Edge

Insurers that earn jeers from their customers are falling further behind the ones that earn cheers.

That’s the key takeaway from Watermark Consulting’s 2018 Insurance Customer Experience ROI Study.

The study, which was last conducted two years ago, seeks to provide insurance executives with a macro understanding of the impact that customer experience has on a company’s fortunes. This is important information for an industry that publicly affirms the importance of customer experience, but privately struggles to quantify the benefits of such investments.

About the Study

Watermark’s analysis is based on data from what is arguably the best-regarded source of insurance carrier customer experience rankings—J.D. Power & Associates’ annual Insurance Satisfaction Studies.

The study’s approach was simple: We calculated the cumulative total stock returns for two model portfolios, composed of the Top 5 (“Leaders”) and Bottom 5 (“Laggards”) publicly traded companies in J.D. Power’s annual study. (A white paper about the study, referenced at the end of this article, includes a more detailed description of how the analysis was conducted.)

We went through the exercise twice—once for auto insurers (where J.D. Power rankings were available from 2010-2017), and once for home insurers (where rankings were available from 2009-2017).

In both cases, our model portfolios tracked the stock performance of the carriers for the year-earlier period of their designation as a Leader or Laggard (so, for example, J.D. Power’s 2017 Leaders were used, retroactively, to build our 2016 stock portfolio).

See also: Profiles in the Customer Experience  

This approach was consistent with our thesis that the market would already be rewarding/penalizing the Leaders/Laggards in the full-year period preceding the release of J.D. Power’s consumer survey (given the customer experience the carriers were already delivering). It also helped ensure that the model portfolios’ performance was not at all influenced by the publication of the J.D. Power study itself.

The Results

Yet again, the Insurance Customer Experience Leader portfolios far outperformed the Laggard portfolios—and the margin of victory widened considerably as compared to the 2016 study.

Watermark defines Auto Insurance Customer Experience Leaders and Laggards as publicly traded insurers falling in the Top 5 and Bottom 5 national ranking of J.D. Power’s 2010-2017 U.S. Auto Insurance Satisfaction Studies. Comparison is based on performance of equally weighted, annually readjusted stock portfolios of Customer Experience Leaders and Laggards.

As the accompanying graphic shows, over the eight-year period studied, the portfolio of Auto Insurance Customer Experience Leaders far outperformed the industry, generating a total return that was nearly double—171 points higher—that of the Dow Jones Property & Casualty Market Index.

While a few carriers made repeated appearances in the Leader category over the eight years examined, only one, Erie Insurance, earned that distinction for every year of the study.

What’s most striking is the growing chasm between the Auto Insurance Customer Experience Leaders and Laggards. The Laggard portfolio now trails the Leader portfolio by an astounding 242 points.

As with the Leaders, there was some year-to-year consistency in the Laggards list, with two firms— MAPFRE-Commerce Insurance and the Hanover—showing up in that category every year of the study.

The graph below, which shows the analysis for home insurers, exhibits a similar pecking order as seen with the auto insurers.

The Home Insurance Customer Experience Leader portfolio outperformed the industry, generating a total return that was nearly double (87 points higher) than that of the Dow Jones Property & Casualty Market Index.

While several home insurance carriers made it into the Leader category multiple times, Erie Insurance was again the only one that achieved that distinction for each of the years covered by the study.

The Home Insurance Laggards in this latest study fell even further behind the Leaders, with the cumulative performance gap between the two portfolios reaching 119 points. (In the prior study, the gap was 57 points.)

Interpreting the Results

This study should give pause to anyone who is skeptical of the value that customer experience differentiation accords to an insurer.

The Auto and Home Insurance Customer Experience Leader portfolios generated average annual returns that were more than double that of their Laggard counterparts. The results suggest that carriers that consistently excel in customer experience tend to be viewed by the market as more valuable entities than those that do not.

That enhanced value is a function of the Leaders seeing a rise in revenue, thanks to happy, loyal customers who spend more with them, stick around longer and refer others.

It’s also a function of a more competitive cost structure, as the Leaders can spend less on new business acquisition because of all the referrals they receive. In addition, because these firms’ happy customers complain less, there’s not as much stress on their operating infrastructure, which also helps keep expenses in check.

The Laggards, of course, are weighed down by just the opposite factors—depressed revenues, high customer churn and profit-sapping, strained infrastructures.

What was notable in this year’s study was that the disparity in performance between the Leaders and the Laggards wasn’t just striking—it was also growing by double digits.

This suggests that the competitive edge enjoyed by Insurance Customer Experience Leaders is both real and strengthening. That should certainly concern any carrier that frequently finds itself in the Laggard category, because these results do not bode well for firms that struggle to endear themselves to customers.

See also: Why Customer Experience Is Key 

Those angling to break into the Leader category should be forewarned: There is no “silver bullet” for achieving customer experience excellence. Latching on to some buzzword– big data, insurtech, AI, etc.—won’t get you there. Neither will advertising how great your customer experience is. The reality will always overshadow the marketing.

Companies that do customer experience well—inside and outside the insurance industry—recognize that there are no shortcuts. Customer experience isn’t some “initiative du jour” for them. It’s not just part of their business. It is their business.

Those leading firms often rely on a handful of time-tested experience design principles. (See the white paper referenced below for examples). However, at their core, what makes the Leaders different is their unwavering commitment to always start with the customer—understanding their needs and wants, their frustrations and aspirations—and then working backward to craft a distinctive, impressive, end-to-end experience.

Fundamentally, it is this outside-in philosophy that gives these companies their competitive edge. And, as this study so clearly illustrates, the strength of that advantage should not be underestimated.

Note: A white paper describing Watermark Consulting’s 2018 Customer Experience ROI Study (Insurance Industry Edition) is available for complimentary download at http://bit.ly/CX-ROI-INSURE.

You can find the original published here on Carrier Management.

Even in Big Data Era, Relationships Count

If the buzz of the P&C insurance conference circuit is to be believed, whizbang new technology and “big data” analytics provide the answers to every problem the industry has ever experienced. More precise risk projections, streamlined customer service functions, 24/7 automated support, claims investigation – they’re all getting better with new technology, and the industry is investing heavily to keep pace.

However, while there is no question that carriers need to build better technology and secure better data, neither technology nor data alone will fundamentally improve the customer experience.

According to findings in the 2018 U.S. Property Claims Satisfaction Study from J.D. Power, a positive customer experience isn’t driven by which carrier has the slickest photo app, uses drones to survey properties or has streamlined the first notice of loss (FNOL) process to be highly efficient. Instead, customers want to feel their carrier has their back in a time of stress or crisis. Customers simply want to understand that everything is going to be okay; they want to know how the claim process will run; and they want someone to care enough to keep them informed about their loss. Technology can fill some of these customer needs, but before the technology or any type of enhanced processes can be effective, someone must set the right expectations.

See also: 3-Step Approach to Big Data Analytics 

Consider the Insurance Information Institute’s evaluation of homeowner claims from 2011 to 2015, which indicates that one in 15 insured homes has a claim each year. Excluding catastrophes, the claim frequency for homeowners is quite small, which means most customers have no idea what to expect when they have a loss. Beyond their lack of claim experience, there is also the emotional toll a homeowner loss takes on a customer. The empathy and guidance provided when a customer reports a claim can truly determine whether the customer’s claim experience will be successful.

Regardless of the severity or nature of the loss being reported, the carrier must set the right expectations at the beginning of the process. The customer needs to understand what will be covered, how the process will work and how long the claim process will take. Once these expectations have been set, the carrier must effectively manage the process to ensure the schedule is being met and communicate with the customer about whether the process is on track, or, if it isn’t, communicate even more frequently and in more detail. J.D. Power research on property claims has found that customers whose claim took more than 18 days to settle – which would normally create a very low customer satisfaction score – are more satisfied with the process than are those customers whose claims were settled in less than five days. The difference in satisfaction scores is based on having met customer expectations (in fact, the customer satisfaction delta in the 2018 J.D. Power study between meeting customer expectations and missing them is more than 100 points). Creating a speedy process without setting the right expectations does not improve customer satisfaction. If anything, a speedy process can hurt.

Setting the right expectations leads to creating the right experience. To a claim professional, a simple fast-tracked water claim may be part of their daily routine, but for the customer, such a loss could be the worst thing that has happened to them in a long time. Without showing empathy for what the customer is going through, the process might be efficient, but it likely won’t be effective. Artificial intelligence technology can certainly help align the right adjuster to the kind of loss being reported, as well as scrub the claim for potential fraud, help align reserves or even trigger a faster payment. However, there also must be a human element to the process.

For many carriers, the agent is the source for this empathy and is generally the one to set the level for customer expectations. Yet, as more claim operations move to a direct digital or customer care center, the FNOL process is shifting from the agent (who normally has a personal relationship with the customer) to a faceless website or a call center, where in many cases the process overrides the personal experience. A digital FNOL or a call center is not necessarily a bad approach. Indeed, quite a few carriers have successfully used these channels to handle claims, and digital with a call center or chat function is certainly the wave of the future. But without some personal way to create a level of empathy, the resulting lack of concern and guidance creates a customer who does not feel comfortable with what is happening. When such a customer doesn’t feel at ease, customer satisfaction suffers. Even Gen Y customers (who embrace technological transactions more readily than older customers) find a personal touch at the time of the loss to be a more satisfying experience than using a digital FNOL process.

Throughout the claim process, the carrier must maintain a clear, active line of communication with the customer. Simply sending a text notifying the customer that something has changed with a claim is not a sufficient level of communication if the carrier wants to provide a high level of satisfaction. Such a text needs to be informative by letting the customer know what has changed, as well as include what effect it might have on the claim (either good or bad), and it must provide enough information so that the customer doesn’t feel the need to call the agent or the carrier.

See also: Strategies to Master Massively Big Data  

J.D. Power’s insurance industry research affirms that carriers with the most successful claim operations understand how to balance the customer experience with the need for internal efficiencies. Using technology and data analytics as tools to reduce the level of stress and effort for their customers is a clear pathway to developing not only a strong customer experience, but also an enhanced return on investment.

The New Agent-Customer Relationship

Your grandparents likely had a single insurance agent, someone they called with all of their needs and questions. Now, insurance customers are far more likely to consult Google with their questions and sometimes skip an agent altogether.

The dynamic has changed. Consumers who once valued the agent relationship now prioritize instant changes and self-service. But agents still have an opportunity to capture customers with even the most modern preferences, preserving that mutually beneficial relationship between agent and customer.

About half of insurance shoppers obtain a quote through an insurer website before purchasing a policy, according to J.D. Power’s 2016 U.S. Insurance Shopping Study. Despite this, only 25% actually buy their policy online, according to the report, and half complete the sale through direct contact with an agent.

It’s easy to feel discouraged by the move to automation and online services. As an agent, your skills lie in matching customers with the right insurance policies. The fact that about half of all insurance customers buy through an agent means you shouldn’t lose hope. Although the industry is in flux and customer preferences are changing, it’s still possible for you to do what you do best.

See also: How to Support the Agent of the Future

Help customers navigate the insurance landscape

We’ve all seen bad information and advice doled out online as expertise. You recognize it for what it is, but consumers might not. They don’t always know how to weigh the value or validity of what they find. This is where you can help.

Be an online guide for people by:

  • Sharing worthwhile articles and websites on social media and via email. Add value to what you share by offering your own short commentary.
  • Pointing out examples of bad advice or inaccuracies and pairing these red flags with your accurate, expert information.
  • Sending on-the-fence customers out with reliable resources. If you can’t close the deal today, know your lead will likely go online to do additional research. If you point them toward good information, they’ll be more likely to return to the source when they’re ready to buy.

Be available

Modern customers don’t want to wait for a response, so don’t make them.

According to a PricewaterhouseCoopers 2014 survey that asked customers why they purchased a policy online, 60% responded that the “24/7 availability” of online services was a contributing factor, second only to “ease of access.” No one is suggesting you make yourself available to clients all day and night, but agents who keep flexible hours and answer phone calls the first time may have an advantage.

Let customers know you’re accessible by:

  • Answering the phone, every time. Show your customers that even when you’re busy, you can make time for them. It’s better to say hello and ask if you can call a client back than to send them to voicemail.
  • Following up when a customer is waiting to hear back from you. Even if it’s a call or text to say you need another hour to finalize their quote, they won’t have to wonder whether you’ve forgotten about them entirely.
  • Responding to social media and email requests with the same urgency as phone calls. Customers go online for availability and ease of access, so deliver that to them. Demonstrate that these qualities can come from attentive agents, not just automated online services.

Don’t abandon old-school techniques

Agents of days gone by knew the value of having ongoing relationships with their customers, and that value still exists. Sure, modern customers want quick, easy service, but there’s a reason half call an agent to close the deal.

See also: How the Customer Experience Is Shifting  

Create this mutually rewarding relationship by:

  • Being proactive. It’s easy to fall into reactive mode with current consumer preferences, but use online contacts and a lead-generation service as jumping-off points. Each introduction should be seen as the beginning of something long-term, not just a single transaction.
  • Striving to be that single source of information, like agents of past generations. Act as a risk advisor, identifying opportunities for clients to protect their assets throughout their life.
  • Focusing on the customer, not the policies. Know your client base, their families and their lifestyle. This will come through in your communications, and you’ll be better prepared to offer your customers the best insurance for their needs.