In a new industry survey, independent agents reveal what it is they look for in a relationship with a carrier.
A recent study entitled The Carrier Relationship: What Matters Most to Agents and Brokers surveyed around 1,900 independent carriers regarding their agents’ views on property and casualty carriers along with their general perceptions of the marketplace. The survey, conducted by Channel Harvest and sponsored by Insurance Journal, is the eighth in a series of studies that sheds light on the expectations of modern insurance agents.
What Agents Want
According to the Carrier Relationship study, many independent insurance agents are seeing solid revenue growth, and this encouraging sign of success is only increasing their appetite for further profits. Forging relationships with new carriers is a logical next step in this quest for growth, but agents are rightfully picky about which carriers they choose to do business with. Specifically, they want carriers to demonstrate strong aptitude when it comes to claims services, competitive pricing, underwriting responsiveness, and customer service.
To help guide their understanding, researchers asked agents why they conducted the majority of their business with their top carrier. “Overwhelmingly,” said Channel Harvest Research Director Josh Miller, “agents are satisfied with their top carrier — the carrier with whom they place the most business,” and here’s why:
In the words of the agents surveyed, their best carrier: “Fits the needs of my clients; has [an] agent friendly website [in terms of the] ease of quoting and issue of policies; is a true partner; has a broad range of products;” and, perhaps most importantly, the agents say, “We know who our underwriter and market reps are and see them yearly.”
Not surprisingly, many of these responses reflect a desire for stronger relationships between agents and their carriers. Fostering such relationships is especially critical at a time when premiums are low and pressures are high, ultimately resulting in profit-seeking that strains what can be a delicate connection. This may help to explain why 90% of agents say competitive compensation is a “very important” or “somewhat important” factor when it comes to working with a carrier.
These results echo the conclusions drawn from the Carrier Relationship survey in years past. Following the 2014 iteration of the study, Peter van Aartrijk of Channel Harvest summed up what agents were looking for in their relationship with carriers: “Having quality field representatives is a huge part of the relationship,” he told Insurance Journal. “[Agents] don’t want just drive-by appointments — you know, come in, and let’s go golfing. They want somebody who is knowledgeable, who can sit with their staff, show them the technology, show them the product set, and work on underwriting.”
Agents also expressed a desire for more flexible and online training programs, especially in regards to using social media as a business tool. “The problem with agents, especially retail agents, is they are expected to wear all the hats of the agency,” Aartrijk continues. “They’re really good at the technical things, and they're really good at insurance products, and they're good at closing the deals. But carriers have to help them get more of the deals to close.” One of the best ways to expand a list of prospects and, ultimately, sales numbers, is through concerted social media efforts, and agents want to see seminars and programs that introduce the basics of social media for professional applications.
Annual surveys like those conducted by Channel Harvest provide invaluable insights for carriers and agents alike, and highlight the important steps both groups must take to achieve the healthiest, most productive relationship possible. Ultimately, a symbiotic carrier-agent partnership doesn’t just benefit the parties involved; it’s in the client’s best interests, too.