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How Insurance Agents Can Meet Customer Needs During the Pandemic

August 6, 2020
  • New survey examines agent and customer relationship, finding key areas for agents to proactively close gaps with clients and strengthen relationships
  • Understanding policy language and finding best price are consumers biggest challenges
  • In addition to insurance, customers seek guidance on employee benefits, loss control, banking and retirement

Economic uncertainty and unpredictable markets have forced business owners and consumers to reevaluate their insurance needs, according to Nationwide’s latest Agent Authority research. And although agents feel they’re sufficiently serving their clients’ needs, business owners and consumers noted room for improvement.

Nationwide developed the Agent Authority research series to uncover unique challenges independent insurance agents encounter and create subsequent guidance. In May, we shared data showing agents’ top concerns as they served customers through the pandemic. This summer’s survey of independent agents, business owners and consumers looked at the agent and customer relationship, finding four key areas where agents can enhance the way they service their clients to strengthen relationships and grow their business.

1. Perception of service gap

The survey identified gaps between agents and customers when it comes to perception of service levels.

  • Nearly all agents (95%) responded that they’re always there when their clients need them
  • Nine in ten agents (91%) said they can offer the best price to customers
  • 94% of agents said they’re regularly checking in with customers to make sure their policy fits their needs

Yet, customers ranked their agent experiences lower:

  • 79% agreed their agent is always there when they need them
  • 74% agree agents can offer the best price
  • 69% of customers report sufficient check-ins from their agent

2. What Customers Want

Strong agents win business by leading where others fall down. The survey identified several areas where agents can go above and beyond traditional insurance guidance to stand out in the industry.

While most customers seek counsel on conventional insurance, many business owners indicated they’re looking to agents for:

  • Guidance on employee benefits (57% mid-market business owners)
  • Safety and loss control resources(35% small business owners; 45% mid-market business owners). Learn about Nationwide’s Loss Control Services team.
  • Retirement and banking advice (more than a quarter (26%) of all customers)

While there’s a strong desire for digital platforms and capabilities, small business owners (68%) and consumers (51%) still prefer to have an insurance agent where they are physically located.

3. Customer challenges

Two consistent challenges stood out across all audiences surveyed – understanding policy coverage and finding the best prices.

  • 46% of small business owners, 71% of mid-market business owners and 47% of consumers said it is a challenge to understand what is and what is not covered in my policy
  • Roughly 70% of mid-market business owners and nearly half of small business owners (44%) and consumers (45%) agree it’s a challenge to find the best price
  • 55% of agents say they struggle educating clients on the coverage they need

Many customers also wrestle with understanding different types of coverage, the time it takes to settle a claim, insurance terminology and understanding how much coverage they need.

Agents also reported struggling with adopting new industry technology (55%), understanding the nuances between different industries (53%) and helping clients with disaster prep or mitigation resources (51%).

4. Discussing economic uncertainty

Though 55% of agents think their clients feel uncomfortable talking about economic uncertainty, more than half of business owners and consumers feel like their agent was prepared with the knowledge and resources needed to have these discussions. Agents strongly agreed that both their commercial lines and personal lines customers are unsure how the current economy will impact their business and insurance needs.

Resources for insurance agents

Nationwide is focused on providing the resources to help the best independent insurance agents stand out from the crowd. Consider these resources to help differentiate yourself from the competition:

  • Agency Forward offers regular economic updates from the office of our chief economist to help agents have more informed conversations about the future of the economy.
  • Nationwide Express helps agents readily deliver multi-line quotes in two minutes.
  • Telematics products to address changing driving patterns and a demand for lower prices with the increased prevalence of work from home environments.
  • Loss control resources for agents to share with clients to help them manage risks as operations and exposures evolve.
  • Commercial Insights Center provides technical expertise and safety resources for mid-market agents and business owners. Learn how to protect yourself from a cyberattack during the pandemic.
  • The Business Solutions Center offers insurance guidance and resources to help small business owners protect and grow their businesses.
  • The Nationwide Retirement Institute offers a wide range or retirement planning resources.