Metrics from Independent Agents consistently show that improving responsiveness is the single greatest opportunity for P&C Carriers to improve ease of business—a critical consideration in choosing which carrier gets their business.
You may be inclined to think that your agents already view your organization as responsive. Don’t be too sure! Data from tens of thousands of agents who rated hundreds of carriers over the past two years suggest overwhelming odds that your team, too, has room to improve.
I can personally attest to the power of improved responsiveness for carriers who want to improve their bottom line.
Earlier in my career I was asked to lead an insurance carrier profit center. At the time, we were one of the smallest profit centers in the company, and for several years we had a high loss ratio. It was one of those situations where, when you went to the annual managers meeting, the other managers looked at you with pity and you could sense their relief that they weren’t you. It was not uplifting.
We had to find a way to grow and improve our loss ratio.
We engaged the whole team to achieve this goal. Because of our loss ratio, we had to be extra careful with our pricing and selection decisions. Still, in order to grow, we had to find a way to differentiate ourselves with our agents. We decided to focus on improved responsiveness.
Together, we changed our behaviors to improve responsiveness without sending potentially confusing messages about how aggressive underwriters should be on pricing and selection. Our efforts resulted in both growth and financial stability.
Based on the metrics I see every day, if you want your agents to perceive you as responsive, work on improving these three things:
Often the best prospects for an agent are those who are upset about the experience they’ve had with another carrier or agent. If a prospect’s problem can be addressed quickly — while it is still top of mind for them — then the agent has a high likelihood of writing the business. This is just one example of when speed of response is critically important.
When agents are looking to place business with a carrier, they want to know that if they have questions or concerns, they can quickly get answers. They want quick and easy access to the decision makers that allow them to get their deals done.
It seems like an easy and obvious thing for carrier team members to answer their phones or respond to voicemails, emails, texts, etc. However, it must not be easy. We see frequent comments from agents who indicate it is not as common as you would expect. Here are some representative examples of the many comments we see from frustrated agents:
“The underwriter does not email me back or call back for several days. I am trying to get something written and it has taken two weeks and we are still not there.”
“It is hard to quote because of the slow turn around process to get a quote. A lot of requests come into our office on short notice and it is very difficult to get a quote in a timely manner.”
“Return phone calls and respond to emails quicker.”
“Underwriter is very unresponsive. I have to make several phone calls & send emails.”
“When I send new business submissions over to the underwriter, I rarely hear back & I have to contact her several times before I get a response.”
“Just a response sooner than the day of a quote being needed would be nice.”
It is great to be accessible and send a quick response. However, this is only helpful to agents if the response is competent.
Agents need responses to be accurate, complete, and decisive. They do not want to have to contact the carrier again on the same issue. In other words, the response should be correct and be made by a capable person that will resolve the issue.
Here are some representative comments from agents who would appreciate greater competence:
“Most times after I do get a response, she doesn’t follow up & complete the task, answer questions completely, etc.”
“Have the underwriters respond in a much more timely fashion & do things accurately.”
“People don’t care how much you know
until they know how much you care” – Theodore Roosevelt
Attitude counts. Like most of us, agents want to feel that the person they are working with cares about them and their business, and is aligned to help them. The most successful carriers work to establish a feeling of common purpose with their agents by employing tactics like those discussed in this blog post.
When agents feel as if their carrier contacts care about them, it increases their perception that you are responsive. Here are some comments from agents that feel their underwriting contact does care:
“Underwriter is accessible and easy to talk to.”
“Our lead underwriter goes out of her way to ensure that she responds quickly and fairly to the broker and the client.”
In past articles we discussed the role of “profitable flexibility” in ease of business, and how champion problem solvers help property and casualty insurers build their business. As important as flexibility is to agents, they value responsiveness even more.
While many carriers perceive themselves as responsive, agents view carrier responsiveness as an industrywide opportunity. You can improve your team’s responsiveness by focusing on accessibility, competence, and attitude. Carriers with superior responsiveness will have a strategic advantage in earning business.