Small Commercial Insurance Agents Speak

“Satisfaction with agent portals is directly correlated with carrier choice”. So said 256 agents responding to a survey by industry research firm Novarica.

In a 16-page research report based on this survey and published last week by Novarica’s Karlyn Carnahan, 256 agents clarified why they bring premium for small business insurance to certain insurance companies at the expense of others. Novarica’s survey found that:

  • while agency principals value their relationships with underwriters, the rubber meets the road when CSRs submit policies for quotes
  • fast and convenient quote response by an insurance company is more important to agent CSRs than their relationships with underwriters
  • agent portals are the fastest and most convenient way to get a quote and thus agent portals are the key to an agent choosing which carriers will see the quote request

Why don’t agents have a single interface which enables them to get quotes from multiple carriers for all types of policies in all states? This Holy Grail is achievable but in small steps, agent portals being one of those steps.

Underwriters can’t answer the phone all the time, e-mails can go unanswered for hours, but agent portals are ready for business at any time. Karlyn sums up the dynamic well: “While technology can’t replace chemistry, it can certainly create a process that is convenient and fast.” Having a robust and easy-to-use portal translates to more submissions and higher gross written premium.

Agents also ranked which carrier capabilities are most important and happily for AgencyPort clients, our AgencyPortal product delivers on 8 of the top 11 capabilities, those being quick quoting, full quoting, upload from agency management systems, endorsements and other features. I summarize – to read the full Novarica report click here. The report says that while “these features may be costly to build, they make the difference between a carriers ranking as a top carrier or not.”

Novarica is holding a free Webinar on Wed, Aug 19 at 2pm Eastern Time to present the paper. Sign up here.

We also found some key differences between small commercial insurance and personal lines insurance (home, auto, etc):

  • Comparative raters are widely adopted for personal lines insurance but for small commercial insurance, 73% of agents surveyed rarely or never use them
  • Requesting quotes from agency management systems was highly unpopular (it’s more developed and more used in personal lines)
  • Self-service for small business owners a low priority (big priority in personal lines)

At our upcoming AgencyPort User Conference (our fourth such annual client get-together) we will feature the report’s author on a panel discussion which will include a comparison of the findings of our own survey of agents – conducted in person during the month-long Agent Insight Tour.

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