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Biggest disruptor in U.S. insurance distribution and service may be email: Novarica report


January 27, 2016   by Canadian Underwriter


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The biggest disruptor in insurance distribution and service in the United States in the past few years may be email, according to a survey of 150 agents and brokers from 43 states.

“Consumers are looking for an agent to guide them through the selection process, not just sell them a product,” the report said

While mobile and social media “get all the buzz,” the surprising biggest disruptor may be email, research and advisory firm Novarica said on Tuesday. The Novarica report covers topics ranging from technology preferences to how agents attract and serve new clients, to what they like and don’t like about the service they get from their top carriers. The survey sample contained 117 respondents who focused mostly on P&C, 30 who focused mostly on life/health/annuity and three who focused equally on both.

In addition to citing the disruptive influence of email, other key findings of the report include:

• Portals are critical; mobile less so: Agents reported heavy use of agent portals, ranking them as even more important for conducting business than agency management systems. Mobile tools, on the other hand, are not ranked as highly important – for now;

• After product, agents care most about relationships and ease of doing business: These categories were mentioned most frequently as carrier differentiators from an agent’s perspective –both for better and for worse;

• Agents hate product limitations, bad service, poor tools, complexity, and unexpected change: These topics came up again and again as the worst thing about carriers; and

• Customers’ expectations are changing: The Internet and changes to regulations have led to a consumer insurance landscape that is as complex as ever, but customers are using online research and self-service tools to shape their opinions about their options. “Consumers are looking for an agent to guide them through the selection process, not just sell them a product,” the report said.

“Insurance agents are facing a world of changed customer expectations, and they need support from their carriers to keep up,” said Martina Conlon, senior vice president of research and consulting at Novarica and lead author of the report. “While lots of discussions focuses on social and mobile, agents still need better support for basic functions: appetite indication, application submission, and service. Carriers need to understand the customer pressures their agents are facing, and respond with high-performance, easy to use systems. At the same time, they need to minimize complexity and disruptive change for their agents.”