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Claims and risk management insights and opportunities for small businesses

January 12, 2022

Strong business relationships are a key factor in driving success between insurance agents and their clients. This point was made clear in a recent Nationwide Agency Forward survey where small business owners were asked about their commercial insurance claims experiences and loss control strategies. This data highlighted what’s working, what could be improved, and how clients’ experiences might differ from independent insurance agents’ perceptions.

Overall, the survey revealed that small business owners prioritize speed and ease of insurance claims but could be missing opportunities to proactively protect their businesses against disruptions. By reviewing this data, insurance agents will have the information they need to better support their small business clients.

Loss control insights and opportunities

Small business owners can implement a range of risk management measures to help prevent potential insurance claims. Yet, there are many risk management topics to consider. Nearly half (46%) of small business owners indicate that keeping their employees safe is the most important aspect of risk management. Other valuable risk management topics that small business owners voiced include cyberattacks (40%), pandemics (39%) and natural disasters (33%).

While a majority of small business owners (79%) recognize risk management as a top priority, only 18% always or often proactively work on risk management techniques with their insurance agent or carrier. Of those who infrequently engage in proactive loss control activities with their insurance agent or carrier, 18% said their agents recommended risk management services; however, these small business owners believe their agents either don’t think they actually need these services (18%), don’t know enough about their industry (18%) or don’t know enough about risk management as a whole (12%).

“Of those small business owners practicing loss control, 2 out of 3 reported a high level of satisfaction with their insurance agents’ advice or support on risk management. These small business owners are having discussions with their agents and using that information to identify workplace hazards, establish best practices for a safe work environment, and provide employees with safety information.”

The most commonly utilized risk management resources among small business owners include:

  • In-person and/or on-site services, such as safety inspections and consultations (33%)
  • Online safety resources, including safety videos and related documents (29%)
  • Digital risk management tools, such as those on (26%)
  • Safety programs and training guidelines (25%)
  • Remote/teleconference services, such as train the trainer sessions and loss analysis reviews (20%)

In terms of the payoffs for these loss control efforts, small business owners said working proactively on risk management measures with their insurance agents improved operational efficiency (32%), bolstered organizational safety (25%), reduced injuries (30%), and led to fewer insurance claims (25%).

Insurance claims processing insights and opportunities

The good news for agents and carriers is that the majority (83%) of small business owners who experienced claims in the last 12 months were satisfied with their experience. Among those dissatisfied (17%) with the claims process, key reasons for their dissatisfaction included that the process was difficult (25%), slow (24%) or required a lot of work (22%).

When it comes to filing a claim, small business owners (68%) and insurance agents (65%) agree that speed is the most important factor. Leading agents recognize that a smooth claims process supports a good client experience and offer various digital tools that save time by allowing clients to more easily manage unexpected claims and minimize business disruption hassles. This includes the ability for insureds to:

  • File a claim online or via a mobile app
  • Have damage assessments conducted remotely
  • Track the status of a claim

Despite the access to time-saving and convenient insurance claims management tools, small business owners feel insurance agents still have room to improve. Of those surveyed who filed a claim in the last 12 months, 28% used their insurance carrier’s mobile app, 26% contacted their insurance agent by email, 28% used their insurance carrier’s website and 19% contacted their insurance carrier by email. Yet, nearly half (45%) of insurance agents surveyed feel it’s difficult to teach clients how to file online or via a mobile app.

“Regardless of the availability of digital claims tools, 46% want the ability to speak to an agent or claims representative that is knowledgeable in their industry. In contrast, only about a half (45%) of small business owners who were satisfied with the claims process say their agents helped them through the process. Among the small business owners who were dissatisfied with the claims process, 21% say their insurance agent was not helpful during the process.”

From the insurance agent’s perspective, a majority (92%) reported feeling very confident talking clients through the claim filing and tracking process, which underscores the opportunity for agents to more consistently deliver the reassuring, trusted support many small business owners may desire. And while agents may feel adept at assisting their clients in managing the claims process, nearly half (42%) say it’s challenging providing clients with resources to educate them on the claims process.

Supporting small business success

Overall, this data indicates that while most small business owners see loss control as valuable, it remains largely underused. And when claims happen, insurance agents and their clients agree that having a claim handled quickly is key. Nevertheless, by sharing their expertise and providing proactive risk management resources that help clients to reduce their risks and maintain smooth claims processes, insurance agents can be foundational partners in helping ensure small business owners’ success.


  • Survey methodology

    Nationwide commissioned Edelman Data & Intelligence to conduct a 20-minute quantitative online survey among a sample of 2,400 independent U.S. insurance agents, small business owners, middle-market business owners, African American business owners, Hispanic business owners and general consumers between June 22 and July 7, 202. This was done to understand what business owners and consumers value when buying or renewing insurance policies, explore the different challenges each audience faces around insurance, gauge perceptions of the economy, and find out the actions business owners and consumers have taken as a result of COVID-19 and the conversations they’re having with agents. As a member in good standing with The Insights Association and ESOMAR, Edelman Data & Intelligence and Nationwide conduct all research in accordance with local, national and international laws and in line with all Market Research Standards and Guidelines.