It can be challenging for commercial insurers to gain a competitive edge in today’s insurance market while still maintaining profitability. However, small business continues to grow, with 30 million small businesses currently employing 48% of U.S. workers. This creates an opportunity for commercial insurers to increase the volume of small businesses in their book of business. So the question becomes, how can insurers best service their current small business customers to ensure strong retention while furthering the growth of that revenue stream?
To gain a competitive advantage, it is crucial that insurers provide elite service, efficiency and innovation that meets the high expectations of their small business customers, especially given how technologically advanced today’s small businesses are. According to a new study by LexisNexis Risk Solutions, there are five key areas identified as opportunities to do so:
Expand and implement more automation
For small businesses, automation is an efficiency driver in all aspects of their daily operations, including those with their insurer. Likewise, embracing automation can increase the speed and efficiency of insurers’ workflows, reduce human error and help address changing business needs and demands. As is, the level of automation used in small commercial underwriting has not improved over the past two years.
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The underutilization of automation remains a great pain point for small commercial insurers. 89% of those small commercial insurers who participated in the study reported the need to manually re-evaluate insurance applications. However, for insurers looking to set themselves apart, it is important to take advantage of these automation opportunities to reduce the risk of incomplete or error-ridden applications, alleviate labor-intensive busywork for underwriters and improve the overall customer experience. Without these efforts, carriers risk losing money and weakening their competitive position.
Identify the best data assets and leverage them to their full potential
Commercial insurers, like most small businesses today, are no strangers to using data for more informed business decisions. However, the majority of commercial insurers surveyed reported that they relied mostly on public records data, and data retrieved from internet search results. These insurers also cited consumer credit data and commercial credit data as providing the most valuable competitive advantage.
Data assets are not being used consistently across the insurance workflow, but insurers that reset their workflow and spend their time analyzing the right data and utilizing credit and other data sources to their full potential will most likely see improved profitability in their small commercial book of business.
Use predictive modeling consistently
The majority of carriers (81%) believe predictive modeling is important for commercial underwriting, pricing and rating, and it has proven to help insurers evaluate loss propensity and make more informed decisions based on their risk appetite. Carriers that use predictive modeling also report at least moderate success.
However, only one-third of respondents said they use predictive modeling consistently. Small predictive modeling can help insurers new to modeling gain a better understanding of how score-based decision-making can benefit their business, and how to build on that knowledge to adopt it as a consistent business practice.
Put customer experience first
The study found that the three most important factors to the customer experience were faster turnaround times, improved accuracy of customer data and playing a consultative role. However, these three areas were also reported as needing the most improvement.
In the era of instant gratification, commercial carriers should focus on enhancing their online digital platforms by deploying new automation technologies – such as data prefill – to improve accuracy and make the turnaround time and overall process faster. As a result, agents will be able to spend more time being consultative with new and existing customers rather than having to spend it filling out basic information.
Embrace market trends
Seventy percent of the insurance professionals surveyed for the study believe that emerging market trends are important to their business strategy, but less than half are actively making strategic changes in response to them. To stay ahead of the competition, commercial insurers will need to prove that they’re cutting-edge by identifying new trends early and responding quickly.
The current key market trends identified, in the study, as having the biggest opportunities for business strategy include telematics, Internet of Things and direct-to-consumer. On the flip side, data breaches, artificial intelligence (AI) and direct-to-consumer are seen as bringing the biggest threats to business. As these emerging market trends continue to become mainstream, embracing the changes will be the only way to keep from being left behind.
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Find the gap, make the opportunity
While insurers are well aware of these trends and their importance to business performance, few are taking the appropriate actions needed to keep up. For every missed opportunity, the insurer risks falling further behind changing market demands and evolving customer expectations and is less likely to appeal to current and prospective small business customers. Commercial carriers who remain complacent will not only risk losing their current small business clients but could also miss out on the opportunity to optimize and grow their small commercial business.
It’s still anyone’s game to become the go-to insurer for small businesses, so even those that take small steps to better target and service this market can yield big results. The small business community does business via relationships and recommendations, so those who provide best-in-class service to their current small business customers are sure to gain market validation and perhaps even recommendations that can help them organically grow their business.