While insurance carriers continue to deliver satisfactory performance in underwriting and claims management, they are disappointing their independent agent partners in an increasingly important area: technology.
The insights were gleaned from the Professional Insurance Agents’ 2016 Company Performance Survey, which asked more than 700 agents in in the Northeast to rate a total of 74 companies across 20 performance metrics. The survey is among the largest in the industry, and has been conducted since 2002.
While technology is typically a poorly performing category for insurers, it hit new lows this year as the lowest-rated category in three of the four states surveyed. Out of a possible 10 points, agents gave carriers an average 7.1 in New Hampshire and Connecticut, 7.0 in New York and 6.7 in New Jersey.
This compares with scores of 8.1 in underwriter knowledge and expertise, and 7.8 in consistent underwriting.
“From the findings of the survey, it appears that carriers are not embracing the newest technology,” PIANY President John Parsons II said.
These findings reflect the results of other agent surveys, in which producers continually give less than positive reviews to carriers on their technological offerings. An August report from Channel Harvest is particularly representative of industry feeling, in which nine out of 10 respondents said an insurance carrier’s technology is important, but only 70% rate their top carriers’ technological offerings as “above average.”
That’s less enthusiastic sentiment than was expressed for a wide range of other carrier performance metrics, with agents expressing especial disappointment with real-time quoting and renewals, endorsement processing and claims download.
Still, the 70% figure marks a degree of satisfaction among agents.
That disconnect speaks to agents’ relaxed expectations of carriers and even a sub-par array of market options, said Channel Harvest Principal Peter van Aartrijk.
“Agents will have their favorite carriers – and love them, warts and all. In some ways, you can still be ranked as an overall so-so carrier in a number of areas, but in a basket of so-so or lousy carriers, you might not actually look that bad,” van Aartrijk told Insurance Business America at the time.
“It sounds harsh, but I think agents will put up with a lot in exchange for a consistent market, decent prices and products, and okay service.”
Parsons noted the same feelings expressed in the PIA survey.
“Even as agents lament their carriers’ technology, national carriers score at the top in the technology categories,” he said.
Elsewhere in the survey, agents expressed satisfaction with underwriter knowledge and experience (8.1), consistent underwriting (7.8), prompt claims payment (7.8), honest and clear communication (7.4), and prompt claims payment (7.4).
PIACT President Loretta Lesko said the results were somewhat intuitive, particularly relating to high underwriter rankings, as underwriters “have the most interaction with agents.”
PIA also analyzed some 2,500 comments made from agents, with PIANH President John Obrey noting that “agents continue to speak positively about their carriers.”
Of all comments provided by agents who took the survey, 54% focused on a company’s strength.
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