Creating a Strong Agent/Carrier Partnership
The agent/carrier partnership is a strong foundation of the insurance industry. Carriers provide the different products for the customer, while agents work the client relationship helping them to find products that fit their particular situation. Even as the market evolves, this relationship will still be at the core of the business. A large number of consumers still prefer to conduct insurance transactions through agents. But this agent/carrier partnership can sometimes face battles.
According to a study from JD Power and IIABA, agents' overall satisfaction with insurers is just at 696 based on a 1,000 point scale. Agents' issues with carriers include coordinating claims services, defining ownership of a particular customer, and wanting to work with insurers with a broader risk set. But the key overarching issue affecting the value of the partnership is carrier effort in helping agents gain access to the right technologies to improve customer service.
With the rise of competition from insurtechs, agents need access to digital tools to provide the on-demand service that consumers' desire. They need to implement client facing tools such as interactive websites, mobile apps, client portals, 24/7 service, online chat and social media. They also need to speed up the insurance process, reducing the time it takes to quote, rate and bind policies. This involves access to e-signature, claims download, eDocs & Messages, instant raters and other tools which can quicken the workflow and improve efficiency. Carriers have the ability to help agents with these technological advancements.
Working together to improve customer service and increase sales
Carriers often have access to technologies that are out of range of smaller agencies, such as customer portals or mobile apps. One idea is that carriers can help to aggregate the buying power of their network of agencies, working with technology providers and offer agents key solutions at a discounted rate.
Carriers also are accustomed to implementing digital solutions and can share best practices and offer training sessions to familiarize agents with the new technology and make them comfortable incorporating the digital solution into their workflows. One of the key challenges with adopting new tools is persuading employees to use them. With the right training, carriers can help to make the transition easier.
There are also tools that agents can only access if carriers give them the capability. For example, claims download, allow carriers and agents to share detailed claims information in real time. With eDocs & Messages, agents can receive changes to a policy as soon as it happens. Information is also attached directly to the client's file in the agency management system. It eliminates the need to print, mail and file documents. These tools can save agents time and speed up key insurance processes such as filing a claim or changing a policy - but not all carriers offer them.
FOR AGENTS: Working with carriers to improve the agent-carrier relationship
So how can you enhance your relationship with your carriers? Communication is key. You have to let your carriers know what digital tools you need and commit to regularly using them. Also let your carriers know the benefits they will receive if they help you increase your use of technology. These include:
- Providing the on-demand service customers require will allow you to continue your relationship, introduce them to additional products for their other risk areas, and increase your sales - ultimately allowing you to sell more of the carrier's products.
- Adopting agent facing tools like claims download and eDocs & Messages will save you time by automating mundane tasks, alleviating your workflow so you can spend more time on selling products and servicing customers' complex needs.
- Saving carriers money eliminating the costs to print and mail documents.
Also take advantage of other platforms that allow you to communicate your desire for certain technologies to carriers. IVANS Exchange platform is a good example. It allows you to let insurers know directly what download tools you are missing but want to use. Through your account, you can customize your agency's Connection Report. By clicking the "A" on the form you can change your option to "Want" to indicate your preference for the tools listed. Your carriers will then receive a report showing all the agents who are interested in a particular tool.
Carriers: 8 Steps to Strengthen Agent Relationships: carriers hoping to increase profitable growth should create preferred relationships with agency partners
Carriers Aren't Living Up to Agent Expectations in Key Areas: Report: despite widespread satisfaction with their leading carriers, independent insurance agents have serious reservations about insurer performance in a number of areas
Satisfied Independent Agents Are Growth Engines for P/C Carriers: JD Power: independent insurance agents still control the lion's share of P/C premiums and represent a significant growth engine for insurers that get the independent agent satisfaction formula right
How Agents Are Using eDocs and Messages: webinar which discusses how eDocs and Messages can help your business increase insurer-agency connectivity
AUGIE Initiatives: brings together industry leaders and focuses on insurance industry efforts that assist independent agents and brokers in providing their clients with excellent service and the digital experience they expect