3 Key Areas for Carriers to Succeed with Intermediary Partners – Understanding Today’s Evolving Agent
Insurance agents may be facing a bit of an identity crisis. Once seen as the purveyor and all-knowing source of insurance products, their roles are evolving. Thanks to digital tools and online aggregators, business and consumer clients have greater access to knowledge than ever before—leading the agent to take on a more diverse, advisory role.
This ultimately leaves the insurance agent to re-define their value proposition and curate the value that they bring to clients.
What do customers want?
The good news for insurance agents is that customers still yearn for their expertise. Customers want to buy from, put trust in, and stick with independent agents that they have a relationship with.
Buy from. Even after all the money direct insurers spend on TV ads, consumers are still buying from insurance agencies. In fact, 84% of home insurance buyers said they bought from an agent, while 82% did the same for their car insurance, and 57% did the same for their life insurance.
Trust in. When it comes to attitudes toward financial services providers, about two-thirds of non-life insurance buyers agreed with the statement, “I completely trust my agent”. And that trust runs deep for some customers, particularly 25-34-year olds.1
Stick with. After buying from an agent, consumers tend to stick with them. The average relationship length a consumer had with their auto and home agencies were 12.9 and 12.5 years.1
Bottom line: The role of the insurance agent is not dead, rather, in some ways, it is more important than ever.
And what do agents need?
What agents need from carriers is ease of doing business. According to J.D. Power’s 2018 Agent Satisfaction study, other than price, ease of doing business came in as the most important quality that agents are looking for in a carrier (64%). Independent agents are often wearing many hats, looking for carriers that make their jobs (and lives) easier with clear communication, supporting materials, and access to the right information at the right time.
Engine Insights took a close look at the needs of independent insurance agents through our Digital Hives platform. There is certainly a lot that insurance agents are looking for to be successful in their roles. Some of the key findings include:
Value Provided to the Customer. Independent agents truly care about the needs of their customers and, in turn, want to have a similar relationship with insurance carriers that are looking out for their best interests.
Communication Meets Service. Independent agents look for consistent, reliable communication backed by easy to use technology. Ultimately, they want instant access to both claims servicing and underwriters.
Looking for Support. Carriers could be the key to independent agent success and growing their partnership through the right mix of tools, in-person support, and education.
Underpinning our findings is that meeting the agent where they are is not a one-size-fits-all option. Instead, itrequires flexibility and a nimbleness throughout the carrier organization to tailor options to meet their needs.
Meeting needs and building a foundation for the future.
Agents have several ideas and solutions to better plan. Most of these suggestions focus on making their role easier and, in turn, allowing the agent to focus on their clients and foster new business and relations.
Instant contact, quick answers. Carriers should have both phone, email, and instant chat features available on their website to help with quick questions. Agents are also looking to communicate with empowered carrier team members that can guide them instantly, so that they can focus on their client.
Supported by a proactive approach. Agents yearn for ‘one-sheets’ or information packets that are right at their fingertips. This helps to eliminate the needless back and forth of questions.
Offering enhanced education. Agents understand that their role is being tested. As a result, they are looking for the tools and knowledge to build their capabilities and enhance their strength as an advisor.
Preparing for the Future
While the insurance industry is evolving, there are several overarching trends impacting the role of the independent agent.
The threat of direct to consumer and digital business models is driving insurance agents’ desire to use digital and social sales tools. In fact, 35% of agents cite availability of better tools as a major reason for switching carriers. Agents also expect carriers to enable simple experiences, which will drive agent loyalty. This is particularly important given that 90% of agents tap into multiple carriers when doing business.3
Perhaps most importantly, the agent of the future is looking for innovative, customized products to meet changing demands. Our data revealed 40% of agents would like products with many available features to meet a wide set of needs.3
How do you prepare?
There is a true sea change occurring in the insurance industry. Service models are evolving, technology is enabling efficiency, and new products are popping up to meet ever evolving customer needs.
For today’s insurance carrier, it is imperative to understand intermediary partners in order to address their personal needs and build the right tools for the future.
At ENGINE, we get it. We are research partners in the business of understanding people. Partnering with 7-of-10 of the largest P&C insurers in the country, we are cognizant of the unique needs that come with serving diverse and ever evolving audiences.
Our agile solutions, custom consultations, and industry expertise have helped leading carriers define their independent agent audience and enhance offers to support overall business growth.
– Amber McCullough, Director of Client Solutions
 “Loyal Agents have Big Impact on Insurance Carrier Business.” Forrester. February 9, 2016.
 “J.D. Power U.S. Independent Insurance Agent Satisfaction Study.” J.D. Power. January 25, 2018.
 “The agent of the future.” EY. 2017.