In times of uncertainty and change we are tempted to try to fix everything all at once. However, in my experience, it is far more effective to identify those things that are crucially important and focus on those first.
I learned this the hard way as a new branch manager for an insurance carrier, assigned to the Michigan territory during the great recession (although in Michigan it felt more like a depression!) At first, I ran from solving one problem to next. I wore myself and the team out without fixing the underlying issues that caused the problems.
Then we tried a new approach. We were writing a small amount of good new business. We investigated what was driving this good new business our way. What we discovered was the agents really appreciated some of our underwriters. We identified what those underwriters were doing differently and then figured out how to transfer their success to others. This approach finally allowed us to build traction.
Fast forward 12 years, and the same principle still applies.
Identify Your Best Opportunities
If you understand at the molecular level what drives good business to you, and if you use that understanding to build on your strengths, you will attract more business.
Over the last two years alone, Deep Customer Connections has surveyed over ten thousand Independent Insurance Agents. 98% of agents AGREE ease of doing business is CRITICAL to their placement decision.
The data from these independent agents indicate that if a carrier is easier to do business with, agents will place more and better business with them.
Many factors impact agents’ perceptions of “Ease of Business.” If you want to gain advantage over your competitors, consider first focusing on those behaviors and processes that are most important to agents.
What is most important? The data from our DCC INDEX consistently shows that timely/fair claims handling and underwriting relationships are most important. In fact, agents rank them as even more important than technology. This top ranking of claims and underwriting applies whether agents are primarily focused on personal lines or commercial lines.
When thinking of how you and your team might improve your results, consider these comments from Independent Agents.
“I handle claims. From a claims perspective, this carrier makes it easy for claims reporting and claim updates. Because of this, I have a good relationship with the claims adjusters and managers. Communication is the key factor in claims.”
“We have a wonderful underwriter. We don’t always see eye to eye, and there are lots of risks that our agency sends her that she doesn’t quote for us. She is not always the best price when she does. But … our agency always feels we can talk to her frankly and openly about a risk. She answers our calls and replies to our emails. She is upfront with us. It is a pleasure dealing with people like that.”
Across the board, data from Independent Agents confirm that claims handling and the ease of accessing competent, stable underwriting are key. Their comments confirm they want positive relationships with the claims team and an underwriter.
The million-dollar question is, of course, exactly where and when does your organization excel or fall short at claims handling and underwriting?
In future articles we will examine other important factors, as well as carriers’ opportunities to improve ease of business for agents.