Canadian Underwriter

Yes, brokers and consumers do define value differently

October 31, 2022   by Alyssa DiSabatino

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Personalized service is what consumers across Ontario most value in their relationships with P&C brokers, with broker expertise coming in second, found a market research expert speaking at the recent Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario (IBAO) Convention.

On the other hand, brokers rank themselves highly for their personalized service and rates, said Erin Kelly, CEO of Advanced Symbolics Inc (ASI).

“The customers are looking for expertise, but the brokers are talking about rates,” Kelly observed from ASI’s market research data, based on social media keyword sampling.

“So, what do customers value? This has changed over time…But number one across all time is personalized service,” said Kelly. “There are nuances in what they’re looking for in that personalized service: not responsiveness but reachability.”

Customers rank expertise second, followed by one-stop shopping, rates, options, diversity and rewards programs.

“Options [means] I go to a broker [and] he gives me lots of different providers, not just the one,” said Kelly. She found that customers are also using social media to say they want a broker who understands their diverse identity and their unique set of risks.

“A new one that’s just starting to crop up [among consumers is], ‘can I get rewards for getting multiple products from this broker?’”

Comparatively, brokers think highly of themselves for their ability to offer the best rates and personalized service. “Tied with personalized [service] is rates. ‘I’ve got the number one rates and I give you personal service,’” explained Kelly.

In third place, brokers place their ability to give customers options, followed by expertise in fourth, and one-stop shopping and diversity are in fifth and sixth place.

“[Brokers] have got expertise fourth in the postings that [they] put out, while the customer is looking for that number one, after personalized service,” she said. “Below [options] is expertise, and really it should be the other way around.”

She also observed brokers don’t rank themselves for rewards at all — something customers are becoming increasingly keen on.

However, brokers who are advertising themselves for their ability to provide favourable rates may be competing for policyholders with banks, Kelly found.

“I did a separate audience of people going to banks for their insurance, and those people were looking for rates. So, when you’re out advertising rates, you’re competing with banks directly,” said Kelly. “The customers who are interested in the lowest rate are favouring banks right now.”

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Still, this market research is nuanced and differs, among other factors, in the audiences sampled, she noted.

While provincially customers value expertise, it’s different in municipalities. In Barrie, for example, customers value rates. In Kingston, customers value expertise “[and] nothing else,” said Kelly. “So, there are variations between communities,” and even between neighbourhoods, she explained.

Further, Kelly found customers across the province have only started to value expertise over rates during the last six months.

“What changed that?” questioned Kelly. “I went back and I did a deeper analysis on the expertise.

“The first thing that started to move the needle on expertise happened even before six months ago. It was during the Emergency Measures [Act] when insurance and banks were frozen.

“Now, that didn’t affect a lot of people, but the people that it affected are very vocal,” said Kelly. “[The Emergency Measures Act] definitely got people’s attention that some brokers were very knowledgeable, they were more responsive. And even if you [didn’t] know what the Prime Minister was really going to do, showing people that you’re staying on top of it, that you’re reading it and that you can give them some advice was very helpful.”

The derecho that swept Ontario and Quebec in May also contributed to customer’s favouring expertise, said Kelly.

“But the big one that pushed [brokers] into mass appeal on expertise was the travel season,” said Kelly. “Because everybody was traveling this summer, you had an increase of people saying ‘I got sick and because I had the crappy medical insurance, I had to pay $1,600 to fix my problem. But my friend paid $30 more in insurance than I did [and] he had the best medical attention. He had no bills and he was staying at the Ritz Carlton.

“That is what pushed [the idea that] expertise is worth the money,” added Kelly. “Now, that’s not going to last forever,” and brokers need to keep up with consumer conversations and keep posting content that reminds them of their expertise.


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