8 Ways to Become an Agent-Preferred Carrier
Accenture finds that most insurers continue to struggle with establishing a strong agency value proposition, i.e., the ability to increase loyalty among independent agents in order to achieve “preferred carrier” status with a larger number of agencies. What follows are eight tips from Accenture on how to reach this preferred carrier standing. Photos courtesy of Fotolia
1. Increase ease of doing business.: Enabling agencies to interact more efficiently with carriers and create a satisfying customer experience is key to improving the ease of doing business. It's important for carriers to note that opportunities to augment the relationship come from accelerated transaction throughput.
2. Provide specialized knowledge and skills.: Insurers can build a strong relationship with independent agents by offering them better product intelligence, transaction support and collaboration options. This includes rapid, efficient and direct ways to both educate agents on a range of products (beyond auto and home) and help them sell more sophisticated products to grow their customer base. Also see The Missing Link in Insurance Data Analytics
3. Support effective agency operations.: While carriers have provided agencies with portals, interfaces and business process support to help increase sales for a long time now, extending these offerings to help agencies run their own business, rather than just selling product, will strengthen the carrier-agent relationship. Also see The Agent/Carrier Data Exchange Debate
4. Clearly define customer ownership.: Customer ownership can be a primary inhibitor of efficient, transparent and meaningful agent-customer interactions. To repair the lack of trust that has plagued the industry in recent years, carriers can help agents engage customers with more insightful messaging, and support agents’ efforts to remain accessible and relevant to customers at all times.
5. Enable key agent-customer interactions.: Carriers now have an opportunity to empower agents to more directly assist customers when issues arise as monitoring and alert services become more prevalent across both commercial and personal lines. For example, the increase in usage-based auto insurance in personal lines should create a market for additional services, including vehicle theft tracking, automated emergency response and vehicle wellness alerts.
6. Provide unique customer service capabilities.: Agents are more apt to place greater value in after-hour and peak-hour service support if these services are provided on behalf of their agency, instead of the carrier. By supporting the brands of its top-performing agents, carriers can augment their operational relationship with select agents and create a more streamlined customer experience. 7 Steps for Supporting Independent Agents in PAS Transformations
7. Embrace third-party distribution capabilities.: While third parties offer benefit to both agencies (in the form of increased commissions) and carriers (in the form of bundled distribution entities), they have not been successful in providing the vast majority of agencies with the scale, skill, scope and capital that enable growth. However, carriers can help to create an industry utility that both solves some of the operational inefficiencies inherent in the independent agent market and enables long-term growth beyond near-term commission boost. A central component of such an industry utility would address the single-entity, multiple-company interface issues that limit the effectiveness of existing software products could also help address concerns about ownership of customer data.
8. Improve claims services coordination.: Carriers should provide a mechanism for independent agents to play an expanded role during the claims process. Doing so should enhance the customer experience and allow agents to engage with customers during a key moment of truth and act as an advocate for them.
Despite increasing interest in digital and other direct experiences available to the personal lines consumers, U.S. consumers still overwhelmingly prefer doing business with agents, according to a recent Accenture survey.