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3 Ways Insurance Agents Can Improve Customer Service Amid Economic Uncertainty

March 28, 2024
  • Nationwide’s latest Agency Forward research identifies opportunities for agents as consumers share their top needs and challenges.
  • Consumers seek more education on their policies and support beyond traditional insurance needs.
  • Economic uncertainty has driven 7 out of 10 consumers to reevaluate their insurance coverages.

Given the impact of inflation and other factors, Americans from coast to coast have experienced significant economic uncertainty in recent years. In fact, consumer sentiment has deteriorated since September, with just 4 in 10 giving a positive rating of their own personal finances.1 As a result, individuals are revisiting their finances and insurance needs, according to Nationwide’s Agency Forward research.

Although consumers and agents agree that working with a trustworthy, accessible and cost-effective agent is a priority, the study showed that—as consumers evaluate personal finances—50% are looking for ways to save money on their existing insurance policies. As clients shift their focus, agents can enhance relationships, strengthen confidence, and improve retention by stepping in to fill service gaps, delivering proactive guidance, and offering new solutions to meet evolving needs.

Our Agency Forward research points to three steps agents can take to help respond to evolving client needs:

1. Identify solutions to meet new customer needs

A lot has changed in recent years, including the needs of many personal lines customers. According to Nationwide’s Agency Forward study:

  • Over half of consumers are reviewing one or more of their insurance policies.
  • Approximately 53% of consumers are asking agents to look at different carriers.
  • Consumers are evenly split in their preference for a physical vs. digital experience with their agent. Around 51% prefer to have an agent where they’re located while 49% prefer to handle all insurance needs digitally.

Consumers want to know they have the right coverage and the right price, and many are reviewing their policies and coverage as their driving behaviors and risk profiles change. Agents should stay up-to-date on industry trends and innovative solutions like telematics, which can offer potential savings by allowing customers to pay for insurance based on their personal driving habits—including how much and how safely they drive.

Agent-centric technology like Nationwide Express also enables agents to quote multi-line policies and complete sales in minutes, helping you effectively reach customers through your own website or mobile device.

2. Proactively address pricing, non-traditional solutions, and concerns about the economy

Consumers are becoming more value conscious and looking to agents for more than just traditional insurance. According to Nationwide’s Agency Forward study:

  • Around 45% of consumers are looking to find the best price for their needs—57% of agents say they struggle to maintain clients because of pricing.
  • Around 70% of consumers say they are concerned about rising interest rates and there are signs many are uneasy with the Federal Reserve’s current policies.
  • Approximately 63% of agents have seen a decline in demand for insurance products.

Roughly half of consumers struggle with finding the best price for their needs, stressing the importance for agents to reinforce that price is only one of several important considerations when evaluating insurance. Be prepared to offer solutions beyond traditional insurance, including cyber security and retirement planning.

In addition, consumers are nervous about the economy and say they’ll be reassessing their insurance needs as a result. According to Nationwide’s Agency Forward study:

  • Around 49% of consumers changed their insurance carrier, likely because of economic uncertainty.

Though economic conversations aren’t always easy, demonstrating your economic knowledge can boost client confidence. Nationwide offers regular economic updates from the office of our chief economist to help agents have informed conversations about the future of the economy with their clients. from the office of our Chief Economist to help agents have informed conversations about the future of the economy with their clients.

3. Embrace insurance technology and servicing innovations

In the insurance industry, technological innovations consistently play a role in shaping customer service strategies, particularly in times of economic uncertainty. In fact, many insurance professionals are finding that a blend of technology and personalized service is critical to differentiating their brands, maintaining client relationships and ensuring strong retention rates.2 3

The following are some strategies and technology to consider: 2 3

  • Automation—The use of advanced automation tools and agency management software has streamlined client onboarding and policy management processes. These innovations not only tighten up workflows, but also provide stakeholders with quick and efficient access to policy information, enabling agents to respond promptly to client inquiries. As an example, renewal automation software digitizes the actions and communications that lead up to a renewal, allowing agents to reduce any friction that may lead to a client switching providers.
  • Risk management—Data science and predictive analytics are critical when it comes to making informed business decisions and effectively managing client risk. Specifically, the use of software to forecast a client’s future risk exposure empowers agencies to provide preemptive advice and recommendations. This approach not only enhances client relationships, but also aids in the loss control process.
  • Quoting software—Client expectations are constantly evolving and having the ability to quickly provide competitive and adequate coverage options is often mission critical. Quoting software is invaluable in this regard and allows insurance professionals to present multiple coverage options in a timely fashion, reinforcing their commitment to delivering optimal coverage at competitive prices. What’s more, regular communications facilitated by these technologies ensure that both insurance buyers and the agents that represent them are attuned to the changes in client risk profiles.
  • Client engagement—Automated client engagement tools can help foster client loyalty and drive organic growth for agencies. These tools connect directly with clients, providing target messaging around things like upcoming milestones, pertinent industry news and risk management. Through these types of automated interactions, agencies are not only maintaining strong relationships, but they are also preventing staff burnout and enhancing productivity within their service teams. Simply put, automating these communications can help optimize agency efficiency and allow staff to focus on other retention-building activities.

Moving forward

In times of economic uncertainty, the insurance sector must reassess its approaches to customer service. Nationwide’s comprehensive Agency Forward research has underscored consumers’ growing expectations and diverse needs, revealing that a substantial proportion of consumers are grappling with understanding their policies and are yearning for enhanced support and education. It is crucial for agents to respond dynamically to these evolving needs, ensuring that consumers feel supported, informed, and valued.

Implementing the improvements highlighted within this article can significantly elevate the quality of customer service provided. By identifying solutions that align with the needs of customers, addressing their concerns proactively and leveraging the latest in insurance technology and service innovations, agents can build stronger, more resilient relationships with their clients.

For additional insights on how to elevate customer service and learn more about the myriad of ways Nationwide can assist in navigating the evolving landscape of customer needs and expectations, use the Nationwide agent guide which outlines best practices for customer interactions, or visit Nationwide’s Digital Solutions.