COLUMBUS, OH – The latest in Nationwide’s Agent Authority research found that economic uncertainty and unpredictable markets have forced business owners and consumers to reevaluate their finances and insurance needs. This requires insurance agents to navigate unique challenges when helping customers interpret their property and casualty policies. But even up against these new obstacles, agents have a compelling opportunity to serve as a knowledgeable resource for current and prospective customers to strengthen and grow their portfolio or business.
Nationwide uncovered four themes in this study:
- A perception gap: There are gaps between agents and customers when it comes to perception of service levels.
- Customers want more than just property and casualty support from agents.
- Understanding policy coverage and price are shared challenges across all audiences.
- The economy is a concern, and customers are looking to agents for guidance.
“Our latest research shows some emerging opportunities in the agent-customer relationship particularly when navigating this current environment and economy,” said Jeff Rommel, Senior Vice President of Property and Casualty Sales at Nationwide. “But while the data pinpointed gaps, agile agents will see ways to address their clients’ concerns, enhance retention and grow their business.”
These and other important insights came out of the summer survey of the Agent Authority research series conducted by Nationwide, which includes samples of independent insurance agents, consumers and business owners. The research was developed to uncover unique challenges property and casualty agents encounter and create subsequent guidance.
A Perception Gap
The Agent Authority research identified a perception gap in the value agents believe they are bringing to their customers. Agents are confident they are meeting the needs of their customers, yet some business owners and consumers have a different perspective on the services agents should provide. In areas where agents gave themselves higher marks than consumers and business owners, agents can lean in and proactively close gaps, effectively strengthening their relationships and improving their brand.
- 95% of insurance agents believe they are always there when their clients need them but only 79% of customers felt the same.
- While 91% of agents said they can offer the best prices, only 74% of customers agreed.
- 94% of agents reported they are regularly checking in with their customers to make sure their policy fits their needs. However, only 69% of customers reported sufficient check-ins from their agent.
What Customers Want:
To support agents in closing this perception gap, the research identified areas where agents can go above and beyond traditional insurance guidance. While most customers seek counsel on conventional insurance, some business owners are looking for help on succession planning, disaster recovery and employee benefits. Additionally, general property and casualty customers are asking agents about retirement and banking advice.
- 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.
A Shared Challenge:
The research identified two consistent challenges across all audiences surveyed – understanding policy coverage and finding the best price.
- 46% of small business owners, 71% of mid-market business owners and 47% of consumers said it is a challenge to understand what is and what is not covered in their policy.
- 44% of small business owners, 69% of mid-market business owners and 45% of consumers said it is a challenge to find the best price for protection needs.
- Similarly, 55% of agents say they struggle educating clients on the coverage they need and 46% of agents say providing the level of service customers demand is a challenge.
Many customers also wrestle with understanding different types of coverage, the time it takes to settle a claim, insurance terminology and understanding how much coverage they need.
Agents reported it particularly challenging to:
- Adopt new technology to keep up with the industry (55%)
- Understand the nuances between different industries (53%)
- Help clients with disaster prep or mitigation practices (51%)
An Economic Outlook:
Over half of agents think their clients feel uncomfortable talking about economic uncertainty. However, more than half of business owners and consumers feel like their agent was prepared to have these discussions.
- 47% of agents are optimistic the economy will recover in the next year but 66% are concerned about making it through this economic climate.
- 81% of agents say their customers are unsure how the current economy will impact their business and their insurance needs.