For the Accenture 2014 Independent Agent (IA) Survey, we surveyed more than 1,100 IAs in the United States across personal, commercial, P&C and life markets. One key finding from the study: agents’ top priority is retaining and servicing existing customers, over adding new ones.
The figure below shows agents’ rankings of elements across 12 business priority areas, reflecting relative preferences. Notably, the top four are related to customer service or retention. A clear customer focus is at the heart of the IA value proposition and, together with access to competitive products, helps to explain why independent agents have historically enjoyed high retention levels.
From an operational standpoint, the agents in our survey place a higher value on keeping and retaining their customer base than attracting new business. This may be an acceptance of pure economics: it’s more costly to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing one. In addition, the average age of principals with at least 20 percent stake in their agencies is 56. At such a stage in their career, many IAs are focused first and foremost on protecting the business they’ve built up over many years, rather than expanding.
Notably, agents did not rank technology upgrades, specifically including mobile and web customer engagement and support, as a high priority. As I will discuss in an upcoming post, this lack of urgency toward developing digital capabilities may affect an agent’s ability to offer the top-notch customer service and overall customer experience that has historically differentiated the IA channel.