The coronavirus outbreak has had an impact on the business coming through insurance agencies and carriers over the past month, with the week of April 13 specifically seeing quoting volumes 34% below expectations, according to Insurance Technologies Corporation’s (ITC) latest “State of Insurance Rating COVID-19 Weather Report.” However, as stimulus checks hit Americans’ bank accounts throughout the week, Tuesday’s quoting volume increased by 35% to come in at 28% below expectations while the rest of the week averaged 17% below expected quoting volumes.
The last four weeks of ITC’s weather reports on insurance rating have revealed a few key trends about quoting volumes.
“There was a serendipitous drop at the beginning. From the point where everything was normal to everything was not was in the span of less than a week,” said Laird Rixford (pictured), president of ITC. “What we saw over the following three weeks from that event was that there’s a minimum amount of business that has to happen in the insurance industry and we saw that stabilize where we were just about 30% lower with quote volumes.”
He continued: “While we’re looking at that from a quote volume perspective, we’ve also had many conversations with our agency and carrier partners and they say that their numbers align with our numbers as well – that they’re about 30% off from where the norm is.”
Consumer confidence has had a role to play in dictating quoting volumes, as it does with the broader economy and stock markets. ITC’s quote volumes track closely to overall consumer confidence and that showed up this past week relating to the stimulus checks, which have had a warming effect on the overall frigid environment, explained Rixford.
Online traffic to insurance agency websites has meanwhile moved in the other direction. The latest ITC weather report indicated that the number of consumers seeking insurance online continues to out-perform the historical model. Traffic to ITC’s Insurance Website Builder clients was up 3%, and online quote requests and goal completions spiked over the week of April 13. All in all, these two online activities ended at 25.2% above expectations for that week.
“This is tied directly to how consumers are interacting with the buying process for whatever consumer goods they’re looking to purchase these days,” said Rixford. “Insurance is an essential item … and consumers are now using online methods that allow them to continue to shop for insurance while maintaining social distancing.”
As insurance agents keep their doors open and offer their essential services to insureds during this time, the ITC leader recommends that they meet their customers where and when they’re shopping. For instance, if a client wants to contact their agent by phone, they should be able to still do so. If they want to communicate via email or the website, agents should also have all of these methods in place, as well as capabilities they can offer customers, like live quoting or the ability to service their policies through client portals provided by agency management systems.
“Agents and brokers need to provide their consumers and their clients access to their data, access to new policies, and access to the agent directly through these electronic and remote means,” said Rixford. At the same time, agents need to be that trusted advisor to their clients, now more than ever.
“The technology has been available to agents and brokers for years that enables this remote environment, but now agents need to be trusted advisors to their clients by providing them guidance of ‘this is how you can navigate this time financially’ because that’s where the biggest impact is coming right now – it’s through the financial losses and concerns and worries regarding finances of the clients,” explained Rixford.
As for his forecasts on quoting volumes and online traffic for the coming months, the ITC president predicts that the US and the insurance industry specifically is facing a long-winded ramp up populated by momentary setbacks. He added: “The reality is it may take us through the rest of the year to return back to the normal quoting and rating levels that agents and brokers are expecting in the market.”