Agents who invested in digitization were better equipped to navigate the pandemic, according to Nationwide survey. Yet the agent-client relationship remains vital.
An overwhelming 93% of agents feel digitization has enhanced their agency's success, according to the latest Agency Forward survey, formerly known as Agent Authority.
While more consumers utilized technology during the pandemic, the agent-client relationship remains vital. More than half of agents (53%) think a digital benefit is providing customers access to an agent 24/7 and 52% of consumers agree.
Additionally, 52% of agents think digital tools provide better customer service and 45% of consumers agree, 51% of agents think digital tools help retain customers and 55% of consumers believe it provides them faster access to information.
However, 8 in 10 agents also say they have found it difficult to integrate digital tools into their agency, the survey found. The greatest challenges to integration include the rising cost of tools, experienced by 76% of agents, followed by having the resources to teach agents about the tools (72%) and staying on top of and getting clients to use new technology (69%).
Consumers also value digital tools to make interacting with their product easier, the survey found. Nearly half of consumers associate digital insurance capabilities with online tools or mobile apps that help with filing claims and reviewing policies (48%), compare insurance policies and costs (46%), and make the claims process much faster (46%).
In fact, 45% of consumers say working with a carrier with strong digital capabilities increases their customer satisfaction. The data also shows consumers are using digital tools throughout their insurance journey: 48% of consumers have used a customer self-service website; 37% of consumers have used mobile apps for customer services and claims; and 36% have used online mobile tools to quote and compare policies and price.
Meanwhile, consumers still think having access to an insurance agent with the human touch is important. A whopping 87% of consumers say an agent plays a critical role in the customer experience and 88% of consumers still value being able to speak with an agent when they need one. Additionally, 57% of consumers prefer to have insurance agents located physically nearby—mostly for accessibility and trust.
“While digital tools can make certain parts of the insurance experience easier, sometimes customers need to talk to someone to help them understand the nuances of insurance," said Beth Riczko, president of p-c personal lines, Nationwide. “That's when an agent's personal relationship with a customer can make a big difference."
Will Jones is IA editor-in-chief.