Touch points—The voice of the customer
New national survey of insurance customers reveals areas of opportunities for agents
By Bill Jenkins
We hear and see it every day—one pitch line after another promising the lowest price for insurance. Price is all that matters—right?
We already know what the mass media advertisers and marketers say. But what do insurance customers have to say? Where do they find value?
To answer this question, PIA and The Partnership (see sidebar on page 16) conducted an all-new, first-of-its-kind national survey of personal lines insurance customers. This survey represents not only independent agency customers, but also those purchasing through online, direct and captive channels as well. The complete survey results are quite comprehensive with more than 140,000 data points.
Here are highlights from several of the survey's key findings.
Key finding—After good value, customers want to be able to trust someone who will take care of them when it comes to their insurance concerns.
The PIA's research shows that in a world of too many Web sites and voice mail menus, consumers value the expert advice and research independent agents offer to provide the best rates and coverage to meet their needs.
Here is how customers rank the following in order of importance in response to the question: "With regard to the individual or company you work with to provide you insurance coverage, please rank these factors in order of importance from 1 to 10, where a '1' indicates the most important factor and a '10' indicates the least important factor."
1. Value in the rates they find for me.
2. That they are taking care of me and my insurance needs.
3. Trust in the person or company.
4. Quick service response.
5. They will "go to bat for me" when necessary.
6. Personal attention.
7. They are able to offer me choices of coverage.
8. They provide me with confidence that I am making the right insurance decisions.
9. They are recommending sufficient insurance protection.
10. They are able to offer me a choice of companies.
Here is how customers rank the following in order of importance in response to the following question: "Rank in order of importance the factors which give you the greatest level of trust and confidence in the individual (agent or company representative) who will help you make decisions when you purchase insurance from 1 to 6, where a '1' indicates the factor that gives you the greatest level of trust and confidence factor and a '6' indicates the factor that gives you the least level of trust and confidence."
1. Provide value by finding good rates.
2. They are taking care of my insurance needs.
3. I have confidence in their insurance knowledge and/or experience.
4. They demonstrate the ability to successfully address my insurance needs.
5. They make it a priority to tell me what I need for the right amount of insurance protection.
6. They offer me choices of insurance companies and coverage options.
As these survey results clearly show, customers are looking for more than the lowest price. What they really want is value. Value is not only in the price they pay, it's in the benefits they receive.
While it's true that price is important, they need to hear about you first and not make their decision based solely on price. This is why proactively communicating your value proposition is important. It's not enough just to say that you are able "to offer a choice of companies."
Rather, as you can see in these rankings, what's important to consumers is that you deliver value in each of these areas. While you may understand that you can deliver this because you can offer a choice of companies, consumers will probably not make that connection on their own.
Key finding: If the price of two policies is nearly the same, they would most likely choose one policy over the other based on better coverage.
Here is how customers respond to the following question: "If the price of two policies is nearly the same, which of these would cause you to choose one policy over another? (Select all that apply.)"
71% Better coverage
64% Lower deductible
46% Better payment terms
36% 24/7 claims service
30% Recognized company name
19% Motor club or similar service included
16% Company recommended by agent
The survey results show that customers care about coverage, and they rank "better coverage" as the top reason to choose between two policies that cost about the same. If they perceive that there are differences and that better coverage is of primary importance, they are clearly saying they don't see insurance as a mere commodity and it's not only about price.
When agents demonstrate their value by helping customers make the right choices, they are giving them what they say they're looking for—someone they trust who will take care of them when it comes to insurance.
Key finding: 67% of customers would like to receive contact from their insurance company, agent or agency every six months or less to inquire if there are any changes in their life or circumstances which could create the need for change or adjustment in their insurance.
Here is how customers respond to the following question: "How often would you like to receive contact from your insurance company, agent or agency to inquire if there are any changes in your life/circumstances which could create the need for change or adjustment in your insurance?"
27% Every 6 months
30% Just before my annual renewal
Key finding: 63% of customers would like to receive contact from their insurance company, agent or agency every six months or less to conduct a general review of their insurance coverages and costs to find out if they are paying too much or lacking coverage they may need.
Here is how customers respond to the following question: "How often would you like to receive contact from your insurance company, agent or agency to conduct a general review of your insurance coverages and costs to find out if you are paying too much or lacking coverage you may need?"
28% Every 6 months
33% Just before my annual renewal
Key finding: 73% of customers want to hear from their current insurance provider more often than just at renewal.
Here is how customers respond to the following question: "How often do you want to hear from your current insurance provider?"
22% About 30 days in advance of renewal
25% At renewal
Your customers want to hear from you. They want to know that you're there for them—that you're proactively interested in their insurance needs.
Ten years ago it may have been impractical and too expensive to maintain frequent contact with customers. But today, it's much easier by using inexpensive automated delivery of e-mail messages and newsletters. These can be timed to renewal cycles and help you identify revenue and loyalty enhancing opportunities for your agency through annual reviews, cross-selling, account-rounding and coverage additions and improvements.
Using the survey results
The research clearly shows that many of the areas in which independent agents provide added value are the same areas valued by a vast majority of customers. This is great news—customers want what agents have to offer. By using the results from this research, agents can proactively deliver what customers want.
So, how can an agency use the way customers answer this and other questions from PIA's research to make the most of their touch point opportunities?
In addition to the research itself, PIA has also created an online resource center which helps agents make choices on how to use the research in ways that work best for themselves and their agencies. The tools in the resource center help agents prioritize their efforts to plan, implement change, refine their marketing messages and monitor and measure the results.
Here are a few of the approaches you'll find in the tools section of PIA's AgencyTouchPoints.com Web site:
• Helping your customers provide you with testimonials
• Using customer data
• Are you covered?
• How do you identify yourself?
• Asking for referrals
• Account rounding action plan
• Coverage reviews
• Direct mail
• Lead generation
As an agent, you are closest to the insurance customer. You have the greatest number and variety of opportunities to connect with them on a regular basis. Best of all, you can connect with them in ways that not only improve their customer experience but also provide you with greater retention and revenue growth.
The PIA is offering the research and tools agents can use to more clearly demonstrate that fact to their customers and their prospects by responding to The Voice of the Customer.
Bill Jenkins is a consultant for the National Association of Professional Insurance Agents with responsibility for the PIA Partnership. He has been involved in the insurance industry for more than 20 years in the areas of marketing, advertising, communication and technology.
About the survey
The National Association of Professional Insurance Agents, through its work with The Partnership, has conducted a new survey research project designed to explore consumer attitudes regarding their personal insurance.
Two surveys were conducted online utilizing the "General Marketing Survey Panel" provided by Survey Sampling International, LLC.
The first set of questions collected 904 completed surveys from qualified participants. The second set collected 915 completed surveys.
Based on these results with the total number of personal auto policyholders set at 187,126,241, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of error is +/- 4 percentage points. This is the same level of accuracy typically cited by Gallup for their surveys.
The following demographic distribution of actual survey respondents tracks well with the general demographics of the U.S. population:
• Male 40%/Female 60%
• Age distribution: 50% age 18-34/ 50% age 35-55
• Customers with current insurance in the following distribution systems:
- Direct over the Internet
- Direct via phone
- Captive agent
- Independent agent
• Geographical representation of individuals from every state (based on ZIP codes) representative of the overall population in terms of:
- Marital status
About The Partnership
Through its work with The Partnership, PIA National and insurance company participants focus on identifying areas of effort that serve to enhance the success of professional independent insurance agents.
PIA recognizes and appreciates the participation and support of the following Partnership companies:
• Central Insurance
• Erie Insurance
• Liberty Mutual Agency Corporation
• MetLife Auto & Home
• Motorists Insurance
• State Auto
PIA members and agencies representing Partnership companies can access the new Web site at: http:AgencyTouchPoints.com.