I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how quickly the relationship between insurance carriers and independent agents is changing. (And, no, the irony of insurance and speed in the same concept is not lost on me.) New technologies and buying trends as well as changing market pressures are all playing a role. The result is more agents stepping onto the digital technology path every day, and carriers and technologists needing to provide them with experiences that live up to their growing expectations. Shameless plug*: Our recent eBook, A P&C Carrier Guide to Boosting Agent Loyalty, underscores the overall ongoing importance of ease of doing business for agents, and highlights some specific ways that carriers can work online (and off) to help keep their agents happy and make selling and servicing insurance faster and easier for everyone.
In the Small Commercial space specifically, an important digital opportunity is gaining increasing traction: comparative rating platforms. For anyone who has been in this space for 10 years or more, this development is highly reminiscent of Personal lines 15 or so years ago—a segment that is now driven entirely by these forums. Those who don’t see this digital emergence as significant for Commercial lines, may want to think again. Searching online for “worker’s comp policy quotes” is a no longer a behavior reserved solely for millennials. This kind of online expectation is growing across age groups and lines of business, and the time to provide an exceptional online/offline hybrid experience that educates agents (and consumers) about different products, offers competitive pricing options, and quotes quickly is now.
“Small Commercial is poised for major shifts in market share,” says Deb Smallwood, Founder Strategy Meets Action (SMA). “Those insurers with the right blend of new agent/broker relationship models, the ability to expand to any channel quickly and that have a technology and data platform that can plug and play any channel will dominate. Our SMA research has been tracking this subtle shift of market share and momentum is mounting. SMA advises all insurers in this space should take notice and prepare to either play in the new world or be prepared for shrinking market share.”
We agree 100% with SMA. We would also add that in order to win and keep business in this brave new world, it isn’t enough to simply have a comparative rating process in place. Carriers must provide an unbelievable end-to-end experience for agents—presenting them with a simple, beautiful, intuitive web portal; asking the right questions at the right point in the process; offering data prefill wherever possible to augment and streamline the process; quoting and binding as quickly as possible; and offering self-service capabilities for them and the end customer wherever it makes sense.