Survey Says: Insurance Agents Can Beat Direct-to-Consumer Market

The insurance industry is changing, and no one knows this better than agents. Since the Internet became a more practical part of our lives, more adventurous shoppers have tested the waters of buying direct. In fact, “66% of North American auto customers who leave do so because of price,” a 2015 survey finds, noting that “independent brokers are more effective in recommending the best product and dedicated agents are viewed as highly responsive.”

According to the EY Global Consumer Insurance Survey, the direct-to-consumer mar-ket is largely price-driven — not a good method for building the customer loyalty need-ed for long-term success. This would indicate the game is far from over for insurance agents.

Still, agents should be cognizant of what pushes customers online, and if two in three are going to be there shopping for a better price anyway, it makes sense to invest in a quality web lead buying program to capitalize on a massive share of the market.

Here’s some more good news for agents.

Broker sales, the survey found, account for a higher level of positive outcomes than those buying from other channels while “those buying directly from an insurance com-pany report the highest level of negative outcomes (25%, compared to 18% in the in-dependent agent and broker channels).”

That said, there is a weakness in the system and one that insurance agents need to address immediately if they are to build the types of loyal customers that strengthen ca-reers. That weakness is communication, and it’s one that both agents and direct insur-ers are doing poorly per the results.

Key finding number four in the study offers a basic blueprint for what customers expect from their insurance company — “Consumers want more frequent, meaningful and personalized communications,” the survey says, adding that only one in six (17%) of consumers across the Americas are “very satisfied” with the communications they re-ceive.

The highest levels of satisfaction are within “mature markets” like North America, “but are low in absolute terms and consistently subpar across products and key sales channels.”

“The implication is clear,” the research concludes: “insurers, brokers and agents are all falling short in meeting demand for high-quality and relevant communications.”

If you have yet to master the communicative touch with your customers, here are some tips for how you can do just that and distinguish yourself from your digital counterparts as well as the rest of the insurance agents out there who are lagging behind.

1. Be available.

Availability is something that many insurance agents struggle with because they are too busy cold calling, writing policies or doing annual reviews. Digital outreach can feel too much like a trickle effect to marketing while the more traditional approaches make you feel like you are getting something done in the moment. Still, it’s important not to forget that most of your prospects and customers are online through social media and search engines.

With social media, the word used to only mean “Facebook.” Now you neglect platforms like Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter and even SnapChat at your own risk. While we’ve al-ways recommended embracing the one platform you’re “good at,” that doesn’t mean you should ignore the others.

Remember, your client base may not all be in the same location. So how can you ex-pect to communicate well with Instagram junkies if Twitter is the only place you ever operate?

Availability both online and offline is of the utmost importance.

2. Be strategic.

Simply starting the website or setting up the social media feeds is a big step, but it won’t get you very far without a clear strategy for how you plan to reach new leads and exist-ing customers. In other words, it isn’t enough to simply have the tools, you have to ask yourself what the purpose of each one is.

How will you use a photo site, for instance, to reach your followers?

Marketing pro Adam DeGraide, Founder and CEO of Astonish, recommends the use of infographics and photo challenges. For the latter, DeGraide says to ask questions, such as the following:

  • What is the most unique car on the road in town?
  • What house has the best holiday décor?
  • Create your own hashtag for your agency and get people involved.

Last but not least, one can try to connect to local events, like posting pics if someone in your agency visits a town car show or observes hail damage from a recent storm. Point the camera. Click. Upload. And remember: insurance can be just as visual as anything else, so get creative.

3. Be dedicated.

Dedication is where insurance agents often fall short. Again, they do not always see immediate effects from the efforts of social media and blogging, but these things leave digital breadcrumbs that can lead droves of potential new business to the proverbial doorstep, thus making agents competitive against the self-serve efforts of the direct-to-consumer marketplace.

Again, it’s worth repeating. Your customers are online, so you need to be online. But to make online work for you as an insurance agent, you need to stick with your game plan. To effectively do so, you may want to look into hiring outside help, but keep in mind that no one knows the needs of your business better than you do. Yes, get a so-cial media manager. Yes, hire people to write blog posts if you don’t have the time to do it yourself. But no, don’t put this aspect of your business on auto-pilot. Be involved and consistent. Let your personality show through in the posts that you put out into the world.

4. Be responsive.

Beyond availability, strategy and dedication, responsiveness is the most important thing you can be on social media and your website. As the survey laid out, customers want better communication. They want it to be frequent, meaningful and personalized. Without responsiveness, how can you be any of those things?

In Summary

Do not fear the modern world of insurance, agents. You stand just as good of a chance of success as the direct market, and likely better since you are still preferred by the ma-jority of the marketplace for the level of service you already provide. While improved communications will be the primary challenge for the years ahead, you’re equipped to build the loyalty necessary for escaping the pricing wars mindset direct insurance sales created. Are you up to the task?

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