Canadian Underwriter

What consumers really want from their insurance providers

May 26, 2021   by Jason Contant

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As insurers and brokers increase their efforts to go digital, consumers still say they want an omni-channel and personalized experience, according to Ipsos survey results of more than 13,000 Canadian adults.

“The preference to buy directly from the [insurance] company rather than using a broker is prevalent in the purchase phase, and later, the website and call centre are the most-used platforms,” Ipsos said in a news release Tuesday. “Generally, over the past 12 months, there has been a decline in customers interacting with their insurance providers, demonstrated by a drop in those using the entire variety of channels.

“Compared to other sectors, insurance has always been characterized by low engagement and the pandemic enforced this trend with fewer people travelling and driving, for example.”

While the P&C insurance industry in 2020 received a Net Promoter Score of -8 in the Ipsos survey, the industry’s banking cousins in the financial sector received a Net Promoter Score of 12 (from November 2020 to January 2021).

Ipsos was announcing the results of its latest CSI Insurance study, which sampled more than 13,000 Canadians over the age of 18 who own at least one type of insurance policy.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made it clear to all industries — the P&C insurance industry included — that there is a need for increased focus on omni-channel strategies, Ipsos said of its survey results. Omni-channel refers to the different methods of shopping available to a customer, such as online, in a physical store, or by phone. The current climate dictates that customers use different platforms for various tasks.

Brokers have told Canadian Underwriter in the past that customers prefer an omni-channel approach. For example, Kenny Nicholls, president and CEO of Western Financial Group, said in late 2020 that the brokerage will maintain its omni-channel approach, “which responds to a range of our customers’ diverse needs.” Hub International Canada president Tina Osen even said that Hub acquired one brokerage in 2018 to expand its omni-channel offerings.

According to Ipsos’ survey, there is a need for proactive and personalized communication between consumers and insurers. Fewer than 25% of Canadian insurance customers polled were satisfied with their level of personalized communication.

“This is a source of dissatisfaction, particularly amongst those who have held their policies for a long time and feel they have lost touch with their providers,” Ipsos said of the result.

Only one in three survey respondents were generally happy with the quality of the customer service they received from their insurance provider, the survey found. “In fact, on general key performance indicators, a majority of brands perform similarly, with a few exceptions to the rule.”

Only 9% of insured customers agreed that their provider is innovative, according to the survey results. Innovative insurers were defined as those that found the right balance between satisfying functional needs such as premiums and creating an emotional bond with clients by building trust, reliability, and finding ways to simplify customer experience.

On the topic of premium relief, fewer than 30% of those polled were “completely satisfied” with their insurance provider’s COVID-19 response. According to Insurance Bureau of Canada, P&C insurers across the country have provided about $2.5 billion in premium relief, mainly in personal lines.

Brokers have said in the past that the industry can do a better job of communicating the premium relief offered to consumers throughout the pandemic. And certainly, consumer satisfaction surveys should be taken with a grain of salt, since no consumer ever really wants to pay more. And insurers only have so much they can give.

“If there was more to be given, absolutely, insurers want to give more,” Joseph Carnevale, president of the Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario, told Canadian Underwriter in December 2020. “I mean, these are also their clients. They feel they want to look good to their clients.”

Carnevale offered his comments in the context of a discussion about political pressure on the P&C insurance industry as the pandemic dragged on. Even before COVID, he observed, the price of insurance was often a concern for consumers, with many feeling they pay too much in premiums. “I don’t think there was anyone out there who was saying prior to [COVID], ‘I think I can pay a bit more. Charge me some more.’”


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