Is the independent insurance agency channel healthy?

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pageltd
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Is the independent insurance agency channel healthy?

Post by pageltd » Fri Nov 11, 2016 5:42 am

There are many ways that agencies operate, many differing opinions, plenty of ways that companies want to spend your money on marketing / advertising.

Is the independent insurance agency channel / model healthy?
Are we understood, in general, by the end consumer?
Are we doing enough to stimulate the consumer to buy from, and stay with us?
Are companies doing enough to warrant that feeling from consumers?

What are your thoughts?
George Page
www.pageins.com

bvstewart
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Re: Is the independent insurance agency channel healthy?

Post by bvstewart » Tue Nov 07, 2017 1:47 pm

I was hoping someone would reply. This would be an interesting discussion.

pageltd
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Re: Is the independent insurance agency channel healthy?

Post by pageltd » Fri Nov 17, 2017 11:20 am

bvstewart wrote:
Tue Nov 07, 2017 1:47 pm
I was hoping someone would reply. This would be an interesting discussion.
I agree. I think people are scared to reply.
George Page
www.pageins.com

gregcw
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Re: Is the independent insurance agency channel healthy?

Post by gregcw » Fri Nov 17, 2017 11:36 am

I think that part of the answer is in educating our customers on some of our benefits and some or the changes that have taken place on premiums i.e. Credit Scoring. I recently lost a policy holder I've known since before I became an agent 37 years ago. Several years ago I replaced his Farmers policy with one of my companies which withdrew from the state and was able to replace it with another carrier I represent for a comparable premium. He recently went back to Farmers without first talking to me. When I reviewed his policy, I learned that his Credit Score had improved to the point that I could have saved him premium, with the same company, and even more premium with another company I represent.

I hadn't reviewed his policy because the carrier he was with kept coming in in the top three in all of my quotes for other prospects so I "assumed" that his premium would have been in that same range.

I did re-quote the risk with a significant drop in premium. Any suggestions out there on how to educate customers to check with their agents to see if their credit has improved to see if it would reduce their premium?
Gregcw

pageltd
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Re: Is the independent insurance agency channel healthy?

Post by pageltd » Fri Nov 17, 2017 11:48 am

gregcw wrote:
Fri Nov 17, 2017 11:36 am
I think that part of the answer is in educating our customers on some of our benefits and some or the changes that have taken place on premiums i.e. Credit Scoring. I recently lost a policy holder I've known since before I became an agent 37 years ago. Several years ago I replaced his Farmers policy with one of my companies which withdrew from the state and was able to replace it with another carrier I represent for a comparable premium. He recently went back to Farmers without first talking to me. When I reviewed his policy, I learned that his Credit Score had improved to the point that I could have saved him premium, with the same company, and even more premium with another company I represent.

I hadn't reviewed his policy because the carrier he was with kept coming in in the top three in all of my quotes for other prospects so I "assumed" that his premium would have been in that same range.

I did re-quote the risk with a significant drop in premium. Any suggestions out there on how to educate customers to check with their agents to see if their credit has improved to see if it would reduce their premium?
First of all, something you already know...never assume. Sorry, I know that's probably salt in your wound. In our agency, we have gotten in the habit of re-quoting EVERYTHING. It's a giant pain the ass and time sink, but totally worth it. It not only allows us to review coverage and uncover exposures that we did not know existed, but it gets us in touch with our clients. I enjoy talking with our clients, and being their go-to guy. It feels good and I enjoy helping people. A simple phone call to say "Hey Mr Smith, how's it going? I just wanted to let you know that we're looking at your renewal to see if we can do anyt better. It looks like your rate increased. We'll see if we can get a better rate for you" They love it and it gives you instant credibility. Build on that credibility. Those are mt recommendations? Be out there in front of them always. Be out there in the community always. Be available with your expertise. Be generous with your time. Call, email, blog, post, visit...be the agent they want to call. Be the agent they love and will feel bad leaving without saying goodbye.

My final words...RE-QUOTE EVERYTHING! I like to think about it as a chance to review coverage, refresh / update our rating system and be a genuine service.
George Page
www.pageins.com

1SmilingNomad
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Re: Is the independent insurance agency channel healthy?

Post by 1SmilingNomad » Wed Feb 13, 2019 11:05 am

Healthy, in short. Absolutely not.

Taking a broad brush stroke approach here as someone who has worked across hundreds of agencies (both branded and independent), has advised senior leaders in the big 5 consumer insurance co's, and who is also a consumer, not a broker.
Many brokers or agencies are not doing a good job of keeping up with the changing consumer demographic, their unmet needs, and changing expectations. Many use what in my opinion is naive thinking by assuming that they know what the needs of their consumers are, but they seldom ever ask their customers. Instead they turn to marketers and advertisers and buy services to simply help them “sell" more products. This is dangerous thinking!

The reality is that consumers who purchase insurance are changing rapidly (by 2019, Millennials will surpass boomers in terms of population) and with this changing demographic, come new needs that few agencies are aware of or prepared to meet. We (millennials) are digital natives, highly social/ relational, heed online reviews (particularly those with 25+ reviews at 4+ stars) and referrals from friends when shopping for insurance, and demand personalized attention, fast service, self service options, and experts who can distill challenging topics like insurance down into layman's terms.

They (we - I'm one of them), know the value of working with experts, prefer to be catered to/ receive personalized attention, and like to be self sufficient whenever possible. We also tend to research the people and organizations we work with - paying special attention to online reviews of businesses (got a rating below 4 stars, less than 25 reviews, and we're immediately skeptical of working with you).

While most of my friends (age 25-35 purchase insurance they need online), I continue to work with an insurance broker (at least for personal lines) because they know me, regularly ask me how they’re doing, engage me to ask what questions I have, what’s not certain, share relatable stories through social media that shift my thinking cause me to reach out and ask questions. They go to bat on my behalf and shop my policies every single year to ensure I’ve got the best price, best quality coverage, with dependable insurance co’s. When I have questions, they respond in minutes (not hours or days). They’re also well loved by other consumers (many 4-5 star reviews on Yelp, Google Reviews, Angies List, Next Door, etc). As a result of this, I just flat out won’t switch and send a lot of referral business their way (2-3 people a month - most of whom sign up). When those people sign up, I get a thank you note. Now that’s an agency that knows how to treat the new demographic of customers!

Now, contrast that with an experience I had buying a commercial umbrella policy about 2 years ago (my broker doesn’t do commercial). I reached out to 10+ local brokerages regarding commercial umbrella policies and heard back from only 1 within 48 hours, the other two within 4-5 days, and the rest either I never heard from or followed up several weeks later apologizing for the delay caused by vacation, their staff were out sick, they were overwhelmed with client requests, or blah, blah, blah. Just flat out terrible customer service (even from well reviewed agencies). I spoke to each of the first three agencies to reach out (none would talk via chat / text message or email - everyone required a phone call (which really wasn’t very convenient for me). 2 of the brokers wanted to “tell me” what I needed vs. ask me questions about my situation, empathize, etc. They made me feel dumb. The third had great questions, obviously knew commercial lines inside and out, quoted me for a policy, and then just disappeared for a week. When I tried to purchase, I got zero response via email. Eventually, I just went direct to the co he quoted me through and purchased online.
Anyhow, hope this is helpful in answering your questions above (from perhaps a slightly different perspective then you were anticipating).

So what can agencies/ brokers do? I believe it's time for agencies to start re-engaging with their customers and ask them regularly if they're satisfied with the value their receiving, what could their team do better/ differently to better meet each customers needs, what burning questions do they have/ what are they confused about/ what's happening or changing in their lives that might require additional insurance, what would it take for them to refer their friends, what can you do to keep them there, etc.

Thoughts?

pageltd
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Re: Is the independent insurance agency channel healthy?

Post by pageltd » Wed Feb 13, 2019 11:26 am

Thoughts? Yes, many, many thoughts....which I will address separately, after I read and analyze thoroughly. This kind of dialogue is great for agents. Thanks for your reply!
George Page
www.pageins.com

pageltd
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Re: Is the independent insurance agency channel healthy?

Post by pageltd » Wed Feb 13, 2019 11:43 am

When you have someone say this "We should have done this sooner!" about switching from GEICO to a local independent insurance agency, you know you're doing something right.

And...these were not young people.

Bottom line, I try to let people know in a way that won;t seem pushy. If you're getting better service, better advice, better pricing, why not keep business and dollars in your local community.
George Page
www.pageins.com

agent14
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Re: Is the independent insurance agency channel healthy?

Post by agent14 » Fri Feb 15, 2019 3:52 pm

Regarding "REQUOTE EVERYTHING"...

That will work for a little while, until one, or two, or all of your major carrier reps come into your office and show detailed reports about other agents in their territory within a 5 mile radius of your office, who have a higher quote / issue ratio, and higher retention. Get it? When you requote everyone every year, your quote to issue ratio will nosedive, and so will your retention for each carrier. Why does the matter you ask?

If your carrier terminates your appointment, and non renews all your policies because you are quoting your clients too much, what have you accomplished? Just thought I'd throw that out, since I have heard first hand from other agents that have tried this approach, and have lost major carrier appointments because of it.

pageltd
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Re: Is the independent insurance agency channel healthy?

Post by pageltd » Fri Feb 15, 2019 4:05 pm

agent14 wrote:
Fri Feb 15, 2019 3:52 pm
Regarding "REQUOTE EVERYTHING"...

That will work for a little while, until one, or two, or all of your major carrier reps come into your office and show detailed reports about other agents in their territory within a 5 mile radius of your office, who have a higher quote / issue ratio, and higher retention. Get it? When you requote everyone every year, your quote to issue ratio will nosedive, and so will your retention for each carrier. Why does the matter you ask?

If your carrier terminates your appointment, and non renews all your policies because you are quoting your clients too much, what have you accomplished? Just thought I'd throw that out, since I have heard first hand from other agents that have tried this approach, and have lost major carrier appointments because of it.
Your story is second hand and anecdotal, so no...I don't get it. My direct experience (i.e. reps tell ME directly), that many of their other agencies are doing exactly the same thing and that it is necessary. The reps understand the dynamics / environment for agents in this hyper competitive market. Also that quoting activity is good thing, generally speaking, even if it results in a lower quote to bind ratio. I share results with reps as needed (redacted, so as not to share competitive info) to warrant the fact that they are not competitive. So...am I concerned about our quote to bind ratio? Not as much as I am keeping a client because the rate is better with another carrier. Should I leave out certain carriers because I think they're going to terminate us due to a poor R:B ratio? Makes very little sense to me. Lastly, (2) solid companies recently approached us to write HO with them. What that says to me is that we're doing something right. I'll continue to serve our clients.
George Page
www.pageins.com

pageltd
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Re: Is the independent insurance agency channel healthy?

Post by pageltd » Fri Feb 15, 2019 4:34 pm

Maybe it would be better understood if I said REVIEW EVERYTHING and be underwriters. For real. That's what we're really doing, because practically speaking we do NOT re-quote everything. Why not? Because not everything can be re-quoted due to a variety of factors, including age of drivers, loss history, home updates or lack thereof. We are reviewing what we insure, as underwriters and the front lines for the company. That's our fiduciary responsibility to the company and we take that very seriously.
George Page
www.pageins.com

agent14
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Re: Is the independent insurance agency channel healthy?

Post by agent14 » Fri Feb 15, 2019 6:43 pm

Do what you feel you need to do. I have heard not second hand, but FIRST hand from agents that have been terminated from MAJOR IA carriers for quoting TOO much, and having a lower than average retention ratio. Believe it or not, but IT HAPPENED. And, once terminated by a major carrier, you are blackballed for at least 5-10 years, if not for infinity, from getting an appointment again. Not dreamed up, not rumored, but first hand witness experience from what ACTUALLY happened. Peace.

pageltd
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Re: Is the independent insurance agency channel healthy?

Post by pageltd » Fri Feb 15, 2019 9:02 pm

agent14 wrote:
Fri Feb 15, 2019 6:43 pm
Do what you feel you need to do. I have heard not second hand, but FIRST hand from agents that have been terminated from MAJOR IA carriers for quoting TOO much, and having a lower than average retention ratio. Believe it or not, but IT HAPPENED. And, once terminated by a major carrier, you are blackballed for at least 5-10 years, if not for infinity, from getting an appointment again. Not dreamed up, not rumored, but first hand witness experience from what ACTUALLY happened. Peace.
We always do. Thanks for the response. I like where this thread is going. It's starting to get interesting.
George Page
www.pageins.com

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