As an independent agent, you probably feel continual pressure from the staggering marketing power of direct carriers. If so, you can take heart in this statistic: 2 out of every 3 customers who research their insurance purchases online make the final purchase through an agent1.
This is especially true of customers with more complex needs. As a customer's assets and family grows, so do their risks of being underinsured. These customers also know they have a lot to protect, and value the advice of trusted, licensed experts.(And for those that don’t, share this article highlighting the differences between independent and captive agents.)
Your time and knowledge is valuable, and it's what sets you apart from other channels. So, why is so much of your agency's time spent on transactions that don't help grow your business or require your expertise?
Why your customers choose you
Think about the customer experience. If a customer calls a direct writer or a captive, they can get their billing questions answered, just like they can at your agency. They can make a vehicle change. They can get a copy of their ID card or update their mortgage company. Nothing about fulfilling these requests differentiates your agency. Your customers didn't choose you based on your ability to answer the phone.
Knowing the value that you as an independent agent bring, it shouldn't be surprising to learn that independent agency market share is holding its own against directs, while captive market share is steadily declining2. With the ability to offer only one option, captives are stuck going head-to-head with directs and appear to be losing.
To survive and thrive, you need to provide what directs and captives can't – proactive, personalized consultative expertise that goes above and beyond what a customer can get on a self-service site.
Making a real difference
Chances are, your customers first found you because they live close by. But location isn't the whole story. Independent agencies like yours are an integral part of a cohesive community. So, do you reach new residents by being connected with the local mortgage company? Or your local bank when a car loan gets taken out? Does your agency attend town meetings, volunteer opportunities, or sponsor local events? The more of a visible presence you have in your community, the more you'll be seen as a trusted adviser in touch with the well-being of both the community and its residents.
A big part of maintaining this visibility is staying in touch with your customers on a regular basis. You no doubt recognize the importance of renewal touchpoints, but not all agents have the capacity to do this. Prioritizing this work over the transactional day-to-day items helps reminds your customers that you are actively looking out for their best interest.
Plus, customers in the high-net-worth space often have elevated expectations for how and how often they want to hear from you. Using the 80/20 rule, determine which customers would most benefit from your time, and prioritize delivering meaningful value for these customers throughout the year.
Doing more with less
You're probably thinking, "well, of course I'd like to do all of this, but there's no way my agency has the staff or capacity to take on this work." You're not alone.
The industry is in the midst of a talent shortage. Hiring is becoming more expensive, insurance professionals are retiring earlier and the staff you have is probably at capacity with the volume of transactions they handle. Where is the room to focus on business-building?
The fact is, growth-minded agents need to relinquish some of the work they do today that does not maximize their differentiated value. Your agency shouldn’t have to answer billing questions or make policy updates to cars. In the latter case, most auto purchases take place on weekends – when your office is likely not even open.
The good news is you have options. One is to work with carriers that can offer more in the way of digital tools that allow customers to self-service their policy, while still being able to count on you for answers and consultation for moments that truly matter.
Another major difference-maker is.adopting a service center model with your best carrier partners. This allows you to extend the capacity of your agency by handing off transactional service. Some of the best, like The Hanover's customer service center, can also amplify your growth with built-in sales and loyalty teams to help you increase sales and retention, along with having consultative discussions on your behalf with customers. This allows your agency to focus on the next level of creating deeper, meaningful customer relationships and providing expert guidance.
After all, that's why they chose you.
Are you ready to focus your agency on growth-generating activities?
1 2016 U.S. Insurance Shopping Study conducted by J.D. Power
2Big I 2020 Market Share Report