Columbus, OH – More than a year since COVID-19’s onset, business owners, consumers and the insurance agents who serve them feel increasingly confident about the direction of the economy compared to this time in 2020. However, Nationwide’s latest Agency Forward survey found insurance clients continue to worry about protecting their assets through the ongoing pandemic and are looking for counsel from their agents on a wider scope of protection solutions.
The survey revealed three key areas for insurance agents to focus on as they serve clients and run their business in today’s environment:
- Clients are asking agents to provide guidance on a wider range of topics than in years past.
- As clients reconsider their future work and living situations, agents need to be thinking more about digital tools to help retain and attract business.
- Both consumers and business owners prioritize similar areas when buying or renewing their policies.
Insurance Agents Are Being Asked To Do More
The Agency Forward research identified clients’ need for insurance agents to be up-to-speed on a wider variety of insurance and protection solutions than this time in 2020, opening the doors for more cross-selling opportunities. Middle market business owners, often with more complicated and risk-prone operations, showed the most interest in a range of non-traditional insurance topics while small business owners saw the biggest increases in a range of topics compared to 2020. Outside of traditional insurance topics, clients are increasingly interested in:
- Employee Benefits: Middle market owners – 59%, Small business owners – 37% (+15% since June 2020)
- Retirement: Middle market owners – 39%, Small business owners - 32% (+14%), Consumers – 29%
- Cybersecurity: Middle market owners – 41%, Small business owners – 28% (+10%), Consumers – 20%
- Banking: Middle market owners – 52% (+12%), Small business owners – 18% (+7%), Consumers – 24% (+6%)
Agents Must Think About Digital Tools To Retain And Attract Business
The pandemic has influenced many clients’ perspectives on where they’ll live and work in the next five years and how close they feel they need to be to their insurance agent. In fact:
- 34% of consumers plan to move away from their current location in the next five years and about a quarter say the pandemic impacted this decision.
- At least 1-in-5 business owners intend to reduce, move or eliminate offices in the next five years with middle market owners (77%) being three times more likely than small business owners to say the pandemic influenced their plans.
As a result of these shifting dynamics, 47% of agents are concerned about their ability to retain clients who relocate and 61% plan to invest heavily or moderately to attract, maintain and foster relationships with clients outside their current geographies.
Consumers And Business Owners Have Similar Priorities
Business owners and consumers shared similar beliefs in what they identify as being most important areas when it comes to buying their policies. Having access to an agent who can help when needed and personalize coverage to fit client needs shines through as a high priority for all audiences.
Clients’ top priorities include:
- Being able to talk live to a person when you have an important question or issue.
- Working with an agent who can personalize coverage to fit your needs.
- The agency/carrier has a smooth claims process and has proven they can deliver in times of crisis.
Customers Said Their Insurance Challenges Increased
Small business and mid-market business owners had a particularly challenging year when it comes to managing their insurance. About half of small business owners struggle with finding the best price for their protection needs, understanding insurance terminology, and the length of time it takes to settle claims (45%, an 8% increase since June 2020).
Mid-market business owners have similar challenges, but about three-quarters also report difficulties with the length of time it takes to set up their coverage (+11% since 2020) or receive insurance quotes (+7%) and their ability to quickly connect with their agent by phone (+ 7%).
Similar to 2020, consumers continue to struggle with the length of time it takes to settle claims (69%), understanding different types of coverage (42%), and finding the best price (42%).
Despite these trials, business owners’ and consumers’ confidence in their agent’s ability to help protect them grew in 2020 as 90% of middle market business owners (+7% since June 2020) and 69% of consumers (+8%) say their agent regularly works with them to ensure they have the right coverage for their needs.
Carriers Can Help Agents Adapt To Changing Needs
As agents look for ways to differentiate themselves and grow their businesses in today’s environment, carriers can step up to provide solutions to enhance their interactions with clients.
- Look to carriers that offer a breadth of products, services, and expertise to help you address clients’ traditional and add-on protection needs, like cybersecurity, employee benefits and retirement. With 3-in-10 consumers sharing they’re worried they’re not making the right steps to reach their retirement goals, it’s a good time to open these conversations with clients.
- If you’re not already, talk with clients about bundling policies with the same carrier to save them valuable time and money. Seven-in-10 consumers currently bundle policies with the same carrier and feel it saves them time. Another 60% of personal lines-focused agents and half of commercial lines-focused agents also feel bundling for customers improves retention1.
- Use digital tools to grow your agency’s reach to help attract new customers and provide an optimized experience for current customers. Consider incorporating search engine optimization and identifying virtual networking and social selling opportunities to more efficiently reach new prospects.