Today, Nationwide released results of a survey that pinpoints opportunities for agents to help strengthen and grow their business in the current environment.
Business owners and customers have had to reevaluate their finances and insurance needs as the coronavirus pandemic has taken hold, according to Agent Authority research recently carried out and released by Nationwide. While this reevaluation presents challenges for agents when helping new and current customers with their property-casualty policies, it also presents opportunities for agents to strengthen and grow their business by proactively addressing customer needs.
“Our latest research shows emerging opportunities in the agent-customer relationship, particularly when navigating the current environment," says Jeff Rommel, senior vice president, property and casualty sales, Nationwide. “While the data pinpointed gaps, agile agents will see ways to address their clients' concerns, enhance retention and grow their business."
The report identifies four key areas where agents have opportunities to serve as a knowledgeable resource during the challenges presented by COVID-19:
1) Perception gap. Agents are confident they are meeting the needs of their customers, yet some business owners and consumers have a different perspective. While 95% of insurance agents believe they are always there for their clients, only 79% of customers feel the same, according to the Nationwide survey.
“Whether it's a business or a consumer, they are really giving the agent permission to provide more than just a product offering," says Peter McMurtrie, president, p-c commercial lines, Nationwide. “It is reflective of an intentional choice by that customer to choose to work with an independent agent. They're not just looking for a price, but really are looking for advice, guidance, risk management and consultative services."
“Consumers want more from an agent than just selling them an auto or homeowners policy. They want the agent to understand all their needs and help them understand what factors come into their decision so that they can make better choices or better-informed choices," he adds. “This is similarly the case with businesses."
The survey also shows that 91% of agents believe they can offer the best price while only 74% of customers agree.
“This reflects the trust and belief that the independent agent can provide the best price, which doesn't necessarily mean the lowest price," McMurtrie says. “Consumers are looking for the best price for the value that they're getting—and that value is consultative services and the appropriateness of the coverage solutions."
Over 90% of agents report they are regularly checking in with their customers, while only 69% of customers agree with this.
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to take hold and the economy remains uncertain, customers are seeking more assistance and guidance. McMurtrie also believes the data is reflective of the time when agents had a much closer relationship with their customers, with more face to face interaction.
“While we're becoming more digitally interactive, there still is that desire from the customer for the agent to find ways to understand their needs before coming forward with guidance and solutions," McMurtrie says.
The Nationwide study offers guidance to agents on reaching out to and checking in with customers on both the personal and commercial side of the p-c market. On the personal side, knowing how the client's business and personal life has changed is key, while on the business side agents should understand the industry and keep up with current trends.
2) Customer needs. In an effort to close the perception gap, the report identifies areas where agents can go above and beyond offering traditional insurance guidance. While most customers are looking for assistance with conventional insurance, some business owners are looking for help on succession planning, disaster recovery and employee benefits. Additionally, general p-c customers are asking agents about retirement and banking advice.
Data from the report reveals:
- 57% of mid-market business owners are asking about employee benefits.
- 45% of mid-market business owners and 35% of small business owners are asking about safety and loss control.
- 26% of consumer customers want guidance on retirement planning.
- Physical location is something customers value. While there is a desire for digital platforms—small business owners (68%), and consumers (51%) still prefer to have an insurance agent where they are physically located.
Customers recognize things are changing and are uncertain their current policies will address their needs. They want agents and carriers to respond to this, address their current policies and whether there are any gaps or emerging risks they should be thinking about.
3) A shared challenge. The research identified two consistent challenges across all audiences surveyed: understanding policy coverage and finding the best price.
“An agent broker can't take for granted the level of sophistication of understanding of their clients," McMurtrie says. Agents play a vital role in understanding the risks and exposures their clients face, determining which policy is suitable and talking through how the policy and coverages align and protect the client. “Being proactive in determining potential exposures," as well as addressing what is not covered in a policy, “is important," McMurtrie explains. “Once this discussion has taken place, finding the best price is only one of the factors."
4) Economic outlook. Nearly half (47%) of agents are optimistic the economy will improve in the next year, but 81% say their customers say they are unsure how the economy will impact their business and insurance needs.
The report offers tips for agents to use partner carrier tools, such as economic updates offered by Nationwide. Other tips to help customers reduce costs during tough times include offering telematics policies for personal auto and fleet management solutions for commercial clients.
“There's an opportunity for agents to offer differentiated work," McMurtrie says. “If businesses and consumers are not feeling that they're getting as much as they need, an agent has the opportunity to differentiate themselves by preparing, planning, understanding and taking the time when interacting with the consumer to ask questions, ensuring they fully understand what the consumer needs."
Olivia Overman is IA content editor.