For years, there has been talk about the diminished role of agents as technology takes center stage in selling and servicing insurance customers. A series of recent customer satisfaction studies by J.D. Power shows the reverse: customer reliance on and appreciation of the role that agents play is actually growing.
David Pieffer discusses the studies in an Insurance Journal article: How Agent and Carrier Relationships Are Changing in a Customer-Centric World. Results show that customers of both personal and commercial insurance lines recognize the the vital role that agents play in every step of the insurance process, from sales through service. The studies reveal that, despite the efficiencies afforded by technology, the human connection continues to be important and the agent’s expertise and guidance is valued when making decisions.
Further good news: The 2018 Insurance Shopping Study showed that “representation by a local agent has increased in importance the most over the past five years (45 percent) compared to other touch points, and “reliance on agents” was especially true among first-time shoppers.”
And it doesn’t look like agents will be supplanted by chatbots any time soon. Even the youngest customers see value in the personal connection, particularly in filing a claim:
“What the 2018 J.D. Power studies (both shopping and claims) found was that the customer is more likely to look to their agent for advice, counsel and support when dealing with insurance matters over any other resource such as a carrier’s call center or website. This need on the part of customers is key to the survival and growth of the agency system in the United States.”
In addition to studies with customers of personal lines customers, Pieffer also cites J.D. Power 2017 results of studies involving both large and small commercial clients. These show that more than a third of all buyers based their decisions on their agent’s recommendations.
But despite this welcome news, this is no time for agents to relax. The article goes on to discuss the need for insurance carriers and agents to improve collaboration and communications to deliver a more seamless experience for customers and talks about ways to achieve that.
“To elevate the relationship to a level that customers expect, carriers and agents must find a way to integrate their interactions with customers into a single conversation instead of disjointed transactions where customers must repeat themselves because different entities within the insurance company and the agency are not using the same information.
To achieve a single conversation, carriers and agents need to digitize routine matters, eliminate the need for multiple workflows and access points, and there must be a reconnection between agents and carriers that allows agents to truly act on behalf of their carriers. Achieving these kinds of improvements must begin by simply communicating with each other.”