Independent insurance agents are embracing a more progressive work environment in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and evolving market conditions, according to a new report by The Hanover.
According to The Hanover’s State of The Independent Insurance Agency Report, agencies are expected to offer more employee flexibility, increased digital engagement with their customers, and enhanced customer and employee experiences.
“In the face of significant challenge and uncertainty, many independent agencies have succeeded over the past 18 months, taking away some very valuable lessons that will help them as they seek to more effectively serve their customers and build their businesses going forward,” said Richard W. Lavey, president of Hanover Agency Markets. “Our survey shows customers have remained loyal to their independent agents.
“As agency owners look to the future, it’s more important than ever that agents maintain strong retention, working with carriers that can support – and continue to enhance – business models with increased flexibility for staff and increased digital accessibility and services to take customers and employee experiences to the next level.”
Key findings of the report include that:
- 66% of agency owners said they expect to continue working in a remote/hybrid model
- 72% of agency owners reported experiencing increased customer retention
- 62% of agency owners reported agency growth
“We learned a lot about independent agents over the last 18 months, and the report proves the industry continues to pivot to meet customer expectations while providing great resiliency,” said Angela Roman-Grimaldi, vice president of enterprise distribution at The Hanover. “The support of strategic carrier partnerships with advanced technologies help agencies thoughtfully address any obstacles customers may face. Additionally, the independent agent model continues to thrive and innovate in a modern working environment by being flexible with employees.”
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The Hanover also created an “Independent Agent Customer Growth and Retention Checklist” to help agents build their business. The checklist is derived from conversations with agency partners and The Hanover’s observations of market trends, developments and evolving best practices.
Independent agent customer growth and retention checklist
- Stay ahead of trends: With COVID-19 a stark reminder of how rapidly the world can change, customers look for agents who understand all their potential risks. Independent agents who understand emerging risks, such as extreme weather, cyber risk, and workplace safety, will earn the trust of their customers
- Leverage technology: Partner with carriers that provide agency staff and their customers' resources for an enhanced customer experience, such as online, mobile and web-based service tools
- Offer complete coverage: Independent agents can grow their business by writing the total account for customers
- Create meaningful customer touchpoints: Consumers and businesses found new, digital methods of communication during COVID-19 lockdowns, and many want these digital interactions to increase. “We typically see ambitious agents encouraging customers to provide multiple points of contact along with their preferred communication channel,” The Hanover said. “Agents quickly learned that digital channels tend to be favored and securing customer email addresses is critical.”
- Look for access to a direct underwriting model: Partnering with carriers that offer a direct, local underwriting model helps agents serve their customers’ needs in an efficient, timely fashion
- Retaining talent: Employees are looking for a continuation of the flexibility that was offered as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Agencies that offer a combination of in-office and remote work options will see higher employee retention volumes