Two-thirds of independent agency owners believe workplace flexibility is here to stay, according to The Hanover Insurance Group’s survey.
On Wednesday, The Hanover Insurance Group released The State of The Independent Insurance Agency Report for 2021, which highlighted the current state of the independent insurance agent channel and provided several tips for how businesses can be successful in the future.
Two-thirds of surveyed independent agency owners believe workplace flexibility is here to stay as employees look to continue to work in a remote or hybrid model, according to the report, which surveyed 500 independent agency owners.
Additionally, customers are also remaining loyal to their agents, with 72% of agency owners experiencing increased customer retention during the pandemic. Meanwhile, 62% of agency owners reported agency growth.
“In the face of significant challenge and uncertainty, many independent agencies have succeeded over the past 18 months, taking away some very valuable lessons that will help them as they seek to more effectively serve their customers and build their businesses going forward," said Richard W. Lavey, president, Hanover Agency Markets.
“Our survey shows customers have remained loyal to their independent agents," Lavey continued. “As agency owners look to the future, it's more important than ever that agents maintain strong retention, working with carriers that can support—and continue to enhance—business models with increased flexibility for staff and increased digital accessibility and services to take customer and employee experiences to the next level."
To assist agents in meeting challenges as they occur and to prepare for the future, The Hanover created an Independent Agent Customer Growth and Retention Checklist. The checklist includes these six tips for agency owners:
1) Stay ahead of trends. Customers look to independent agents to keep abreast of and to understand the potential risks they may face, offering protection if the worst were to occur. Independent agents who understand emerging risks, such as extreme weather, cyber concerns, and workplace safety, will earn customer trust. Agents who regularly communicate trends will find new opportunities to connect with customers while developing stronger relationships and uncovering potential business.
2) Leverage technology. Partnering with carriers and using the resources they offer can help an agency meet customer expectations and offer an enhanced customer experience. Online, web- and mobile-based service tools keep today's modern customer engaged.
3) Offer complete coverage. Offering to provide coverage for a customer's entire insurance needs presents agents with an opportunity to grow their business while also fostering customer loyalty and helping an agency expand its business.
4) Create meaningful customer touchpoints. Agents quickly learned during the coronavirus pandemic that consumers and businesses favored digitally enabled ways to communicate and to stay in touch, and many are looking for these digital interactions to increase. Agents should continue to encourage customers to provide multiple points of contact along with their preferred communication channel. Securing a customer's email address is critical as this allows savvy agents to have regular contact with customers, building a strong relationship that lasts.
5) Look for access to a direct underwriting model. By partnering with carriers who offer a direct, local underwriting model, agents can ensure they serve their customers' needs in an efficient, timely fashion. Underwriting helps with more complicated and complex accounts which enables the most flexibility and choice to tailor the account to limit customer risks.
6) Retain talent. What COVID-19 has brought home is that agents of the future want options for where they work and how they work. Employees are looking for continued flexibility and agencies that offer a combination of in-office and remote working options will experience higher volumes of employee retention. Hybrid models can help attract new talent to the industry as prospective employees realize they can experience success from virtually anywhere. Agent owners should review the benefits they offer to make sure they are in line with industry standards and meet employee expectations.
“We learned a lot about independent agents over the last 18 months and the report proves the industry continues to pivot to meet customer expectations while providing great resiliency," said Angela Roman-Grimaldi, vice president of enterprise distribution at The Hanover.
Olivia Overman is IA content editor.