For years, almost every industry study has indicated that small commercial insurance is ripe for rapid expansion of online sales, but growth to date has been slow. Accenture and Fjord set out to find out why and went directly to the source for the answer.

What we discovered in our experiential research with small business owners in the US surprised us. The owners we spoke to are passionate about their businesses, and they are equally impassioned about how bad the small commercial buying experience is today.

They also have some strong ideas about what carriers need to do to fix an unpleasant customer experience. In this blog series, I’ll explore the research, starting with a look at why direct insurers are failing to address what this market segment truly cares about.

The research we conducted reveals that small commercial insurance customers are eager to purchase online but hold back because they find that the process is as time-consuming, confusing and frustrating as agent purchases are today.

Here are some of the reasons they are not buying commercial coverage online, including some of their own words:

 

Time: It’s a time-consuming process, when they already don’t have enough hours in the day.

“I was just starting my company and wanted to get this off my list in one meeting. It turned out to be a way longer process than I wanted. In the end, I just went with the guy who would cover all the things we offered. I don’t even know if it’s good coverage or have high confidence in what would happen if someone made a claim against me.”

 

Complexity: Many of those who don’t want to go through an agent find the volume of information and the complexity of the products to be overwhelming.

“My first problem was wading through the Google results and the multitude of websites that popped up when I began my search for coverage. There are so many firms that cater to attorneys that I felt overwhelmed and didn’t know where to start.”

 

Trust: They are skeptical about the sales pitches and advice they receive.

“Because they work for the company, I only trusted them to give me the basic information. Obviously, they’re biased, and they’re not going to give you the best information.”

 

Flexibility: Small businesses’ need for help and engagement fluctuates; carriers and agents can’t keep up.

“Every time I need to add something for a pop-up event, I email my agent. She does it really quickly, which is great, but I think there is an opportunity for me to be able to manage a lot of that on my own.”

 

Essentially, our research shows that small business owners want to focus on growing their companies and serving their customers, knowing that they are protected at an affordable price. They want to know they have the right coverage for their business’s unique needs and that they have control throughout a transparent insurance purchasing process.

But direct carriers are not meeting these needs and are thus failing to take advantage of a significant opportunity in an underpenetrated market. Turning the situation around starts with listening more closely to small business owners to understand their needs and fears. You can listen directly to some of these small business owners’ experiences in this video.

In a post later in this series, I’ll discuss how our experiential research methodology can help any carrier to do just that. My next post, however, will focus on what small business owners really want from direct carriers and commercial coverage.

In the meanwhile, you can read our Small Commercial Insurance research report to learn more.

Winning the Hearts and Minds of Small Business Insurance Buyers

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