Independent agents (IAs) and carriers both have a clear interest in the prosperity and continuing vitality of the IA channel. But they have a complex relationship, often in the position of being both business partners and competitors. So how can agents and carriers work in harmony to optimize the channel?.
Our Independent Agent Survey report details five mutually beneficial outcomes that agents and carriers should work towards to position the IA channel for growth: , and specific steps to deliver these outcomes. The outcomes and a brief sampling of the action steps include:
- Maintain and improve customer loyalty: IAs can provide differentiated services and carriers can back that service with differentiated products; carriers also can provide complementary services, such as after-hours call support, to address customer needs 24/7 on an agent’s behalf.
- Adopt omni-channel capabilities: IAs should embrace omni-channel capabilities in order to engage with customers on their terms, and stay in touch. Carriers should play a role in providing their agents with these capabilities, helping them stay accessible, visible and relevant in their communities—even while carriers are expanding their own channel accessibility.
- Engage in advice-oriented sales and service: IAs can work to more holistically address the needs of their customers (for example, offering risk management advice), while carriers can streamline agency processes to relieve their staff of administrative tasks and allow them to focus on customer-facing activities.
- Create efficient, adaptive agency operations: By building next-gen technology into their operations, IAs develop a streamlined, efficient business that can better sell and serve customers. Meanwhile, carriers can meet IAs where they are and offer training and peer networks to enhance skills.
- Leverage data toward insight-driven outcomes: IAs can tap basic analytics to understand customer behavior, while carriers can deliver more detailed insights to round out the picture. Further, carriers can leverage data to identify and team with the best agents, ensuring a powerful combination of resources.
Today’s insurance environment is a swirling maelstrom of activity. Trends such as changing customer expectations, the emergence of new technologies, and new ways of buying insurance will compel new responses from both agents and carriers, independently as well as collaboratively. The relationship must be carefully managed by all parties, around shared objectives, to maintain the continued strength and vitality of the IA channel.