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Independent Agents Divided on Digital Experience, New Survey Finds

Independent insurance agencies are at a crossroads when it comes to ease of doing business and a divergence between agents who value the personal touch and those who promote self-service, according to a new survey. For example, while fewer than 10% of agents have their own technology allowing customers to purchase a policy, add a vehicle, change a deductible or change or add coverages, nearly a third have their own technology for prospective customers to get quotes online.

Nearly 2,000 agency staff -- from principals to producers to CSRs -- participated in a survey conducted by Channel Harvest between February and April, answering over 100 questions about their carrier relationships and trends in the insurance marketplace. Analysis of their answers yielded Channel Harvest's exclusive carrier rankings and ratings, statistics on agency growth, and how agencies are preparing for a digital future dominated by younger generations.

"What stands out is a divide between agents who are intentional about making insurance more like an Amazon purchase and those who prefer to offer a personal transaction," says John Campbell, principal of Channel Harvest Research. "For example, only half of agents reported having a mobile-friendly website and 20% aren't sure what kind of website they have."

Being visible when a consumer is searching online for a product or service is almost an imperative, yet the survey revealed large numbers on both sides of the digital divide. Among the 88% of respondents whose agencies have a website, 42% say their firm uses search engine optimization (SEO), while nearly one-third do not implement SEO, and 17% are not sure.

Self-service was another big differentiator, as over half of respondents said they do not offer customers the ability to purchase a policy, add a vehicle, change a deductible or change or add coverages.

"Carriers are also an important part of the self-service equation, as they will have to consider if they should push these solutions to agents or let agents decide what they want to do," said Campbell.

Fewer than 10% of agents said they have their own technology allowing customers to purchase a policy, add a vehicle, change a deductible or change or add coverages. However, a larger number -- nearly one-third -- have their own technology for allowing prospective customers to get a quote online.

"A common refrain is insurance is behind other consumer services when it comes to convenience, and the survey data confirms that," says Campbell.

This is the 13th annual Channel Harvest survey of independent agents. Most responses were collected before the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic were felt. Channel Harvest also pulsed agents on the effects of the pandemic on their firms, and a summary is available here.

About Channel Harvest Research

Each year, Channel Harvest pulses independent insurance agents in a syndicated, quantitative survey to ask 1) what they're looking for in a carrier relationship, 2) how their carriers are performing against those preferences, and 3) their views on important issues in the insurance marketplace. Thousands of agents across the U.S. are invited to complete the survey via email solicitations from Channel Harvest and from participating insurance carriers. Channel Harvest is a joint venture of marketing and marketing research companies based in the Washington DC area: Aartrijk and Campbell Communications. Industry experts regard Channel Harvest data as some of the most reliable, insightful and actionable data available on independent agents' views of the insurance industry. For information about the 2020 survey report, contact John Novaria, Channel Harvest's industry relations director, at john@Aartrijk.com.

 


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