Tag Archives: small commercial

New Analytics for Small Commercial

Analytics can be a great equalizer in every industry. It’s why 90% of respondents to a McKinsey survey call their analytics investment “medium to high” and another 30% referred to the investment as “very significant” proof that the surveyed understand the value that analytics possesses.

Those investors—especially the commercial insurers—understand the value of analytics and get their money’s worth. In addition to improving sales targets and reducing churn, analytics can increase profitability when it comes to underwriting and selecting risk.

Still, the full potential of analytics goes beyond the insights it provides insurers. When merged with modern technology, data and analytics can fuel efficiency, accuracy and productivity. When used within the decision engine to drive automation, for example, data and analytics can help insurers expedite processes and improve customer experiences, even without human intervention.

Automated reports and actions provide insurers new ways to optimize their day-to-day operations. However, the marriage of automation and analytics is especially vital for the small commercial market as they contend with higher volumes of policy quoting and writing. Using predictive models, automation can reduce the amount of human effort it takes to sell and service policies for small businesses.

Analytics and automation present opportunities to optimize every facet of growing market share for small commercial insurers if properly applied. The sooner that insurers embrace the two, the better off they—and their customers—will be.

Analytics and Automation Can Deliver

When it comes to risk assessment for small businesses, insurers are usually hampered with limited or even misleading information. Unfortunately, this can result in a gap between a risk-appropriate rate and the quoted premium. Thanks to automation and analytics, however, that sort of disparity can be a thing of the past.

See also: What Predictive Analytics Is Reshaping  

While there are many ways analytics and automation can be used to improve the small commercial insurance industry, there are three particular areas where major improvements have been demonstrated. For insurers that are on the fence about committing to analytics and automation, here’s where their influences will likely be most visible:

1. Simplified Applications

By automating customer quoting and underwriting, insurers can phase out the process of collecting troves of information on an application. With reliable third-party data sources, automation can fill in many of the blanks present on typical applications. Insurers will then only need to ask for what’s relevant for the predictive model to assess the risk and provide direction on pricing.

In the same vein, the automation of processes and decisions empowers insurers to use straight-through processing for new applications—quoting and binding policies entirely through an e-commerce experience, without involving staff or consuming staff time. Typically, this is a far more streamlined process for both the insured and insurer, and delivers improved customer experiences.

2. Expedited Claims Processing

Small businesses are acutely sensitive to how long it takes insurers to pay claims and how good (or bad) their experiences are. Analytics helps insurers triage claims while suggesting different processing options.

According to a LexisNexis study, the availability of this data helps shorten processing cycle times by up to 15%. For example, through IoT (internet of things) devices, an insurer can detect water heater leaks and other high-risk problems in real time, enabling the insurer to anticipate potential claims and possibly even prevent them.

Of course, being fast is only part of the equation—the process must also be accurate. Thankfully, automation and analytics improve processes by catching overlooked data points. When sophisticated analytics are applied against a large sample of detailed claims data, the resulting insights can, for example, highlight the best way to get an injured employee back on his or her feet and offer a customized plan to do so.

See also: What’s Beyond Robotic Process Automation  

3. Improved Risk Identification

By using reliable third-party data, such as information available through a data consortium, insurers can more quickly and accurately identify risk—even if it’s in a sector where they have little or no experience—and ensure that risk-appropriate pricing is quoted. Analytics thus becomes a valuable growth engine for insurers to confidently expand into different business lines and regions.  In an environment where 40% of the smallest organizations have no business insurance whatsoever, insurers that embrace modern technology could reap significant rewards. By combining analytics with automation, the small business insurance market could be transformed—which would be welcome news for both insurers and their customers.

The New IoT Wave: Small Commercial

In our hyper-connected society, it was estimated a few years ago that on a normal day another 127 devices are connected to the internet each second. Moreover, the Internet of Things (IoT) trend is accelerating. Insurers cannot stop this; they can only leverage the data that comes from connected devices, or ignore this data.

As of today, the insurance sector has exploited the data more in personal lines than in commercial lines. Insurance telematics on personal auto has been out there for more than 15 years. The Italian market has achieved more than 22% of telematics penetration on the auto insurance business; in the U.S. the penetration is still low, but in the last two years the market has evolved significantly. French insurers have built a success story on smart home insurance (télésurveillance services) over the same period; even in the U.S., experiments are progressing as players such as American Family lead the pack.

We are starting to see the emergence of commercial line applications, especially in the U.S. We have some products on auto commercial lines, such as Progressive Smart Haul, that are gaining traction, and the interest for the application on other business lines is growing.

However, on the insurance commercial lines — outside of commercial auto — we are still talking about theoretical ideas and proofs of concept (POCs), and there are only a few already commercialized products. At the IoT Insurance Observatory – a think tank that in North America has aggregated almost 30 members, including six of the top 15 P&C insurance carriers, as well as the main reinsurers – I’ve directly seen this growth of the appetite of the traditional insurers for IoT applications.

See also: Will IoT Upend Insurance? [Hint: NO!]  

The opportunity

The insurance sector has four different opportunities to leverage the IoT data on commercial lines:

  • There is the opportunity to insure new risks that are emerging due to IoT technology, but also to insure the outcomes of IoT solutions adopted by a business owner.
  • Another area of opportunity is to develop new ways to insure existing risks. Let’s think about real-time measurement of the key drivers for the exposure of an insurance coverage, such as the presence of people in an area for general liability or the inventory for theft insurance.
  • IoT data (and processes based on this data) allows improvements in the performances of the core insurance activities (underwriting, pricing, risk management and claims handling) for current insurance products,
  • There is the opportunity to sell IoT-based services.

The last two are the key aspects that have worked well in the usage of IoT on personal lines. Indeed, based on the Observatory research over the past few years, the most relevant international insurance IoT success stories have five common characteristics:

  • A product sold through current distribution channels, frequently as an option on an existing product;
  • A closed system with devices/app provided by the insurer;
  • Fees paid by the customer for services, which include the rental of the devices;
  • Explicit usage – a customer consents at the moment of purchase, giving the insurer access to data that will help it improve risk self-selection, loss control, consumer behaviors and pricing;
  • The sharing of a material value with customer through discounts, cash back and other incentives.

The marriage of IoT-based services and impacts on the core insurance activities is going to allow insurers to obtain a competitive advantage on small commercial. This is typically a segment that has not jet been penetrated by IoT services – because the first targets for IoT companies have been large and medium enterprises – and the insurance players can succeed in delivering this bundle between IoT services and insurance coverages to this segment. The synergies between those two aspects – services and impacts on the core insurance activities – are possible because the same data used to deliver services allows improvements to the technical profitability of the insurance business. IoT allows the creation of value on the insurance P&L, and this value can be shared with the client, creating a valuable bundle between insurance coverages and IoT solutions. Obviously, the bigger the difference between insurance premium and service cost, the higher the potential of the bundle.

Let’s think about how spending for commercial line coverages – even excluding commercial auto – can easily be several thousand dollars for a small enterprise.

The value creation

The sensors necessary for service delivery – let’s, for example, think about security cameras with AI on the edge – can be fundamental to detecting risky situations. This is precious information for an insurance company. First of all, this allows claim prevention and damage mitigation. This could be achieved through real-time alerts to the on-field supervisor, such as the store manager in retail shops, or to the provider of the necessary emergency services, such as the emergency plumbing service provider. The second use case, which is linked to the detection of risky situations, is reporting. The quick delivery of insights provides objective information to the claim handlers. This way, the insurance company can be ready to address the claim in a more efficient and effective manner, limiting fraud and inflated claims. The reporting of claims and near-miss incidents also allows for providing automated loss control advice to the business owner. This information can also be used to take underwriting decisions at renewal, and even to intervene on pricing.

Value creation is also possible using sensor data to manage behavioral change mechanisms. As found in experiments on personal lines – from life, to health and even to auto insurance – working on awareness creation, behavior suggestions and incentives it is possible to obtain a reduction of the expected losses of an insurance portfolio.

One last aspect to consider is the self-selection effect. The personal line experience has taught us that, at each pricing level, those who accept being monitored are better risks (lower loss ratio) than the peers who don’t accept. So, we can be pretty confident that the business owners who chose the IoT-based insurance coverage are better risks (because they have nothing to hide from their insurers) than their peers who don’t accept to be monitored.

See also: The Dazzling Journey for Insurance IoT  

The insurer who succeeds in these use cases will obtain the waterfall represented below, where the sum of the service fees and the effect of risk selection, loss control, risk-based pricing and behavioral change – all the elements that in my previous articles I have defined as “value creation levers” – covers the IoT costs and allows the creation of a relevant amount of extra value. This value can be shared first of all with policyholders through discounts and incentives. However, part of it should be shared also with intermediaries (agents and brokers involved in the insurance policy distribution), through extra commissions, to scale up the IoT-based portfolio.

Challenges

The main challenge will not be the choice of technological aspects, as many may expect. The trickiest aspects are the design of the insurance IoT strategy, the delivery on the field and the progressive optimization based on the lessons learned.

First of all, it will be key to identify and design the services that the target customers are interested in paying for. The sensors necessary for these services will be the foundation of the insurance IoT approach, and all the additional sensors with a cost lower than the achievable benefits should be added on top. In the design of the insurance use cases, all the different functions related to the value creation levers described above must be involved, as well as all the business lines of the insurance group. The potential in each coverage and each endorsement dedicated to the segment has to be squeezed to maximize the value creation and therefore the return on the IoT investment. In the cost-benefit analysis, it is necessary to adopt a multiyear perspective, thinking toward the amortization of the hardware cost over multiple periods. These are the same challenges that have been successfully addressed by the best practices on personal lines.

Specialization of the solutions by segments will be necessary to deliver effectively. This aspect is an additional challenge that was not present in the personal lines experience, which instead has easily been addressed with a “one size fits all” approach.

Another complexity, which was not present in personal lines, is the presence of multiple actors to be involved in the adoption of the solution, in the prevention/mitigation and in the behavioral change. The business owner (or eventual employees appointed to purchase the insurance coverage), the on-field supervisor (such as a store manager) and operative employees are relevant stakeholders. The IoT insurance approach must take into account all of them to succeed.

Conclusions

Let’s consider the reasons for investing to overcome these barriers facing the IoT-based opportunity. There is an opportunity to win more business and to generate a more profitable commercial line portfolio. The right IoT approach will generate knowledge about clients and their risks (which will lead to opportunities for cross-selling and up-selling) and produce positive externalities for society (by contributing to the modernization of the small and medium enterprises of the country).

This article has been originally published on Carrier Management.

Winning in Small Commercial Lines

Many commercial lines insurers recognize that there are great opportunities for growth in the small commercial segment. There is no question that the segment is hot and that the potential is there for increased business. So, many are rushing into the space or redoubling their efforts and focusing on small commercial. Thus, it is hyper-competitive, and success is not guaranteed. This raises the question, “What does it take to win in the small commercial segment?” A new SMA research report, Ten Guidelines for Success in the Small Commercial Market, answers this question.

Senior leaders intent on small commercial face many questions. Are our existing distribution channel partners adequate to support our growth? Should we establish a new digital brand? Do new insurtech distribution firms present good partnership options? Do we need to modernize our products by adding new coverages? How can we simplify the submission and underwriting processes? The list of questions could go on.

To develop a winning strategy that can be effectively operationalized, insurers should consider the 10 guidelines in the SMA report. These guidelines can serve as a type of filter or way to organize and address the various questions that arise in the development of a new or enhanced strategy for small commercial. Five of the guidelines are aimed at framing the strategy, while the other five are meant to direct the execution elements. Excerpts from each type of guideline are:

Strategic Approach: Take an outside-in approach. Internal insights and agent input are still important, but the outside-in approach considers customers first: their needs, their pain points and their preferences for interaction. The very first task in taking the outside-in approach is to be absolutely clear on who the customer is. Is it the agent? The policyholder? Or, are they both considered customers?

Execution Elements: World-class data and analytics. The strategies and operations for small commercial must be data-driven. This demands a sophisticated platform for business intelligence and advanced analytics. One of the top areas of focus today for small commercial is improved data pre-fill and data augmentation.

See also: Emerging Tech in Commercial Lines  

Winning in this market is not easy. Big players are devoting huge dollars to capture more market share. New entrants such as insurtechs are bringing innovative, customer-focused approaches that are appealing to small business owners. Leaders are leveraging analytics to understand how to segment more effectively. And all are looking at the vital role of technology to create a competitive advantage. It is a big and growing market. And the right formula and focus can make a winner out of any insurer willing to innovate and stay the course.

The Best Approach for Small Commercial?

The small commercial insurance market is hot – there’s no doubt it. In fact, the entire small business environment is quite active, with around 11 million businesses that employ fewer than 20 people, according to the U.S. census bureau, and another 6 million with between 20 and 500 employees. Around 600,000 business are started every year in the U.S., and almost as many fail each year.

As in every other segment, small business owners’ expectations have risen over the past decade, due in part to their daily experiences with digital and mobile capabilities.

See also: Conundrum Facing Commercial Insurance  

In the insurance sector, the competition for retaining small business customers and acquiring new ones is intense. During this time of active industry transformation, a variety of approaches are being employed by commercial lines insurers, especially when it comes to distribution options. Which of these options are the best? SMA has identified five prevalent distribution strategies that are currently deployed by insurers. A synopsis of these strategies follows, along with recommendations for insurers.

  1. Existing agent channels … enhanced with tech: Many insurers are doubling down on their independent agent distribution channel. Agents, after all, still sell most of the small commercial business. However, in this digital age, insurers must be aggressive in the tech capabilities they provide to agents – with modern portals, mobile capabilities, enhanced agent-carrier connectivity solutions and more.
  2. Direct digital: The direct model, successfully deployed for years in the personal lines space, is moving to small commercial. Small business owners are more tech-savvy, and some want self-service capabilities to identify the coverages they need, get quotes and finalize their policy – all online.
  3. New digital brand: Some insurers are establishing new digital brands for small commercial distribution. In most cases, the underwriting and back-office support remain with the insurer, but the front-end marketing and sales are done via a newly established, visible brand. This allows insurers to distinguish the channel from the agent channel and go after different segments in new ways.
  4. Partnering with insurtech: An appealing option to many insurers is to partner with insurtechs that are capturing attention with their focus on the customer experience. These insurtechs may be digital agents/MGAs or comparative raters. Many insurtechs offer agent-focused solutions or enhance the agent/carrier relationship and support the approach in #1.
  5. Establishing a marketplace: Several very large insurers are establishing their own marketplaces that support either agent or direct submissions. These marketplaces typically provide automated appetite matching, triage and recommendations on coverage. In addition to traditional small commercial players such as Chubb and Hartford, large personal lines companies such as Progressive and Nationwide are also going after small commercial business with this approach.

Which of these approaches will turn out to be the most successful in growing a small commercial book? Of course, there isn’t one definitive answer. The likelihood is that a combination of approaches will yield the best results for each specific carrier. The omni-channel world has come to small commercial, which means that most insurers will utilize at least two of these methods of reaching customers.

Perhaps the most important advice is to understand customer segments at increasingly discrete levels and adopt an outside-in approach. The commercial lines business has continued to move in the direction of more specialization, and small commercial is no exception. The deeper the understanding of the characteristics and risks of each type of business, the better-equipped insurers will be for creating products and programs to serve that segment. The distribution channel then becomes part of the customer expectations discussion. What methods will be most successful for each segment? Will the business owners in a particular segment react most positively to experienced agents whom they know and trust? Or are they more likely to prefer acquiring their insurance via a direct self-service approach (or one of the other options outlined here)?

See also: Insurance 2030: Scenario Planning  

One thing is certain. The distribution channel environment for small commercial will evolve over the next few years. And all of the five options in this blog (and probably others) will be in the mix.

For more information on the small commercial market, please read the research report, Ten Guidelines for Success in the Small Commercial Market.

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.