While the agency channel is still dominates insurance distribution in North America, changes in consumer behavior and competitive pressure from direct writers are prompting a shift in the agent’s role. Rather than viewing digital as a competitive threat, carriers can extend digital capabilities to their agents and enable them to use digital as a competitive advantage.

Challenges and opportunities

Consider the following industry figures:

  • Fifty-four percent of auto insurance shoppers report getting their quote online, but only 48 percent of independent insurance agents have websites. Of those, only about 20 percent keep their sites up to date.
  • Half of all agents did not use social media last year.
  • Eight-four percent of captive and independent agents primarily call or meet clients in person. Only 15 percent use e-mail for regular communication.

On the other hand, agents are still the primary channel to form person-to-person relationships and deliver a differentiated customer experience, fostering meaningful dialogue with customers, both pre- and post-sale.

The agent of the future

The agent of the future is customer centric and digitally savvy. They’re able to find the right products and services for the best price, and they can do it efficiently and profitably. They use social networks to reach their customer base, leverage testimonials to build an online presence, and use multiple channels (including mobile) to their advantage.

Accenture believes that insurers need to provide agents with the tools to thrive in a digital world. This can enable insurers to transform the agency channel into a competitive engine for growth.

We recommend four key actions:

  • Attract, hire, appoint, train and retain digital-savvy agents.
  • Bring strength of scale and skill to agents’ digital presence.
  • Organize around customers’ preference to have one conversation over multiple channels.
  • Empower agents to deliver a local, personalized online experience.

To learn more, download Empowering Agents to Employ Digital as a Competitive Weapon (pdf; opens in a new window).

Erik J. Sandquist

Managing Director – Insurance, Global Lead Customer Insight & Growth

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