Customer Behaviors Every Insurance Agent Should Know

It’s a safe bet to say that the insurance customer of today is much different than the one of 20 years ago. The web has changed the way that customers shop and interact with their chosen insurer, and the changes that have occurred are not altogether obvious. In a recent episode of the Insurance Marketing and Advertising Podcast, Lynn Kesterson-Townes of IBM shared some data that her company had amassed on modern insurance customer behaviors. I believe many of you will find this compelling because it does more than simply reveal that customers are shopping for rates online. It shines a light on the type of buying experience they prefer and what they expect once they’ve given you their business.


The Wrong Approach

One of the interesting aspects of the IBM study that Lynn revealed on the podcast was this: 37 percent of customers reported that they had switched their insurer at least once in the last two years, and that represented a 13 percent increase from the previous year. Why so fickle? Well, it turns out a lot of companies are doing it wrong. They’re presenting a product as one-size-fits-all, Kesterson-Townes said, rather than drilling down into the deeper psychology of the customer’s preferences. As a result, there is a lot of “customer swapping” that occurs because the customers are dissatisfied with their overall experience, and they always feel like they can do better.


So What Does The Customer Prefer?

According to Lynn, customers are not sold on one set method for researching, buying, and interacting, when it comes to their insurance needs. This highlights the opportunity and the need for an insurer to create a cross-platform presence that meets the consumer where they are. “With today’s connectedness and the reality of the empowered customer, customers really want to have a personalized relationship with their insurers,” she noted.

That means they don’t simply want one-way communication from the insurer, but they actually want to interact, and Lynn says they prefer to do it in a number of ways — email, phone, and in-person meetings with an agent being among the most popular.

Today’s customer doesn’t just want to shop for insurance on their own. They want advice; they want feedback; they want clarity. Companies that can make that happen “seamlessly” and build a strong brand identity are in a great position to acquire customers and keep them, and from that acquisition, it’s possible to build loyalty that will result in “brand advocates” from your existing clientele. That way, you’re not just appealing to the customer based on price, but price AND value.

“It’s an omni-channel world,” Lynn said. “Customers will decide who they want to interact with and how they want to interact. They may decide to use their mobile phone, computer, telephone — the important thing here is customers are more and more turning toward multiple points of interaction before they purchase. And the really good news is that at the point of purchase, they still mostly use personal interaction points.”

By personal, Kesterson-Townes clarified that they prefer to deal with an agent, and that they have done so “69 percent of the time,” a rate that has gone largely unchanged since 2010. Also, while they are in the information gathering stages, they usually start at a point that isn’t the direct source of the company from which they end up buying. In fact, 18 percent have moved away from direct communication with the insurer during this stage.

This is where a personal, well-targeted, well-researched, agent blog and social networking presence can attract eyeballs, establish your expertise, and pay long-lasting dividends.


In Summary

Insurance products aren’t one-size-fits-all, and how you approach your insurance leads & customers shouldn’t be either. To do so effectively, make sure you are going where they are and competing for their business on more than price alone. Looking to dive deeper? Listen to the full podcast.

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