Wal-Mart is no threat, agents say

The mega-chain announced its entrance into auto insurance this week, but agents are largely unconcerned about job security.



Mega retailer Wal-Mart made waves this week when it announced it was partnering up with AutoInsurance.com to offer car insurance comparison shopping through its website. However, agents and brokers in the already competitive space aren’t feeling particularly threatened by the superstore’s presence.

Insurance Business readers were quick to point out that comparative websites have not yet replaced the value offered  by a live, in-office insurance broker.

This is nothing new, commented Scott Neilson. Consumers soon discover after time with the direct companies that dealing with an agent vs a call center the agent wins in the end... though it takes sometimes years or bad claims experience for them to discover this.

Reader Cynthia Staley felt the same way, relating her personal experience in the comments section. She noted:

I had much rather deal with my agent personally than have to go online to get a quote, make a change, make a payment, delete or add a vehicle, file a claim myself, guide myself through the claims process, or have questions about my policy, etc. I prefer the personal touch rather than quote my policies and make changes myself or guide myself through a claim and issues with a claim. Low quality customer service online. No loyal customer service or personal relationship.

Jason Z also pointed out that Daniel Eckert, Wal-Mart’s senior vice-president of services, made unclear statements on the purpose of the store’s entrance into the auto insurance market, saying:

My question to Daniel Eckert, Wal-Mart’s senior vice-president of services is how does offering auto insurance “increase transparency?" Also "How do I know Walmart is giving me the best deal on every product in their store?" You don't.... What I do know is Walmart is in business for themselves; lets not forget they will be receiving a kick back for all insurance Clicked/Written throught them too.

One point of Wal-Mart’s partnership with AutoInsurance.com that did disappoint producers was the collaboration of some particular insurers. Joe Jimenez noted:

I think we all expected Progressive would do something like this, associate with Walmart, BUT I AM SHOCKED to see SAFECO be a part of this. A company that grew on the backs of its agents is now directly competing with the same agents that helped it become what it is today. Where is the loyalty and respect for its partner agents?

A big thanks to all our readers who commented this week!

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