Agents Seek Mobile Apps for Customer Self-Service, Sales Help: Survey

March 21, 2013

Independent agents and brokers want their customers to be able to “self-serve” on mobile devices, and sales and quotes are key capabilities for agent-facing applications on tablets, according to preliminary results of a new research study.

More than 50 percent of agents responding believe it is very important for customers to be able to pay their bills or file a claim using a mobile device or phone, according to initial results of the research, which is exploring agent attitudes about insurance companies. The study is being conducted by Channel Harvest Research.

However, the preliminary results suggest that fewer agents put a priority on letting customers price shop or learn about insurance products while they are out and about.

The national survey of agents on their attitudes regarding carriers — on a wide range of issues — is sponsored by Insurance Journal. (Agents are responding to the survey here.)

Nearly six in 10 agents say it is very important or critical that customers be able to pay their bill via a mobile phone or other device, according to preliminary results. And a majority said the same about letting customers file claims via their phones.

By comparison, far fewer agents — slightly more than one-third — said it is very important that customers be able to shop for coverage online by getting quotes on a tablet or phone. Slightly fewer than one-third said the same about allowing customers to read or watch videos about new coverages.

“We are observing the impact of customer service expectations being pushed up by other industries, especially banking and communications,” said Steve Craig, research director for Channel Harvest. “As customers turn to their phones for more applications such as transportation support and personal finance, their expectations rise for all firms with whom they do business. Independent insurance agents are picking up on this.”

Craig added: “On the one hand, ‘only’ one-third are saying it is very important that customers be able to get quotes online. But on the other hand, one-third of agents is a significant minority, and the industry must pay attention to the trend.” As more customers use mobile devices, the number of agents clamoring for this will increase, he noted.

Agent-Facing Apps

Independent agents have very different priorities, however, when it comes to what they want to be able to do on mobile devices themselves, the preliminary results indicate.

When asked by Channel Harvest how important it is that they be able to perform certain tasks on a tablet device specifically, about four in 10 agents say it is very important or critical that they be able to use tablet devices during their sales efforts.

“Carriers and agency management software providers should seriously explore how to best optimize their web pages and applications for tablet devices to support outside producers who call on prospects away from the office,” said Craig.

About the Survey

The study, “2013 Survey of Agent-Carrier Relationships,” is the sixth in a series examining independent agents’ views on marketplace issues. The survey is sponsored by Insurance Journal and conducted by Channel Harvest Research. To participate in this year’s survey, click here.

The survey instrument covers more than 90 separate questions. Quantitative survey results are presented in a variety of formats, including importance rankings of specific-carrier attributes, ratings of specific companies on attributes, industry issues, and open-ended agency comments about what breaks out superior carriers from the pack. The report explores differences between agents focused on personal and commercial lines. Carriers can purchase the data set to further explore cross tabs.

(Note: Information cited in this article is based on preliminary data; final survey results could differ slightly.)

For information on obtaining the survey report, contact John Campbell at john@channelharvest.com or (202) 363-2069, or visit www.channelharvest.com.

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