Examining the Disconnect Between Insurance Agents and Clients

Published on 8/24/2020 by Bar List Publishing

Examining the Disconnect Between Insurance Agents and Clients

If you are an insurance industry professional, you know that there’s an inherent perception gap between what you may think you’re offering clients and what they think they’re receiving. A recent study commissioned by Nationwide examines the extent to which this gap exists, along with the ways that other variables can accentuate the differences. The current COVID climate has had its effects, but other factors also seem to be at play. 

Identifying Issues

As business owners and consumers take a hard look at their finances in today’s unstable environment, the concept of value comes into clear focus. And different parties will define value in their own way. Some could say it entails less monetary output, while others might weigh on the theoretical side of the argument, suggesting that value outweighs cost. Either way, times are tough and funds are tight. In the insurance scene, this means that agents need to focus on providing a varied array of value points for clients. But here lies the disconnect.

Perception Gap

According to Nationwide’s study – and as we’d expect – agents believe that they are bringing value to their customers. We know that they’re out there, doing the work. But again, this comes down to personal definitions. Because while agents are confident that they are meeting client needs, clients aren’t so sure. Here are some quick stats to back up these claims:

  • 79% of consumers and business owners feel that agents are there for them when needed, while 95% of agents believed they were.
  • 74% of clients feel that their agents are providing the best prices for them but a much higher 91% of agents feel they do their best here.
  • 69% of customers feel that agents check in often enough, while a whopping 94% of agents report that they do.

Customer Wants

In concept, many insurance products can cross over into financial planning, and here is a factor ripe for development. Nationwide’s report revealed that customers aren’t just looking to agents for their expertise on conventional insurance policies. In today’s uncertain climate, business owners have been reaching out to a familiar agent for help with succession planning, employee benefits, and even disaster recovery. Meanwhile homeowners are looking for advice on retirement and banking. 

There’s a reason that so many clients are asking for assistance with things other than insurance – they trust agents and value their opinions as a professional. Could this be an area to increase connection and communication between industries? We aren’t sure where the future points, but it’s clear that clients have questions, and they’re looking to insurance professionals for answers. 

Another key takeaway from the report is that even in this time of social distancing and during a work-from-home revolution, a majority of clients – 68% of small business owners and 51% of consumers – still prefer to have local access to their insurance agent.

Shared Understanding

Agents and clients may differ in value measurement, but they can certainly agree on this – education is tough. Across the board, nearly half of business owners and consumers expressed frustration when trying to understand coverage and policy contents, along with insurance terminology. About the same percentage of agents say basically the same thing, but coming from a different perspective. They find that it’s a struggle to adequately educate clients on the amounts of coverage they need, on top of trying to communicate differences in coverage types and claim settlements.

Economic Impact

We’re seeing troublesome times in every way right now. And financially, many small businesses and families are struggling. For good reason, agents are worried. Many feel that the economy will recover, but a majority are truly concerned about their agencies. And the concern is even stronger on the clients’ end, with a vast majority of customers expressing uncertainty about future business outcomes and insurance needs. Everyone is in a similar boat, without a clearly charted path.

Opportunity for Growth

Among all the recent shifts in working environments, agents and clients are also resorting to less conventional ways of doing business. Many of these methods are technology-heavy, and rapid adoption can have unfortunate consequences. Over half of agents – 55% – report that it’s been difficult to keep up with the industry. Sweeping tech implementation is a change that’s here to stay for the foreseeable future, so education and training will be key to a successful transition. 

As noted, clients are coming to agents with concerns that extend beyond their realms of expertise, and 53% of agents say that understanding the nuances between industries has been challenging. While no one is expecting insurance agents to give solid financial or disaster prep advice, could industries have better intercommunication, encouraging experts to cross lines and find the best ways to support customers while addressing their varied concerns? We can’t say where the future will lead, but in the end, whatever works best for the client and will retain their trust and confidence is a worthy way forward.

To that end, one thing we can most definitely gather from this study is the need for reliable, open, and meaningful communication. And that will of course stem from solid relationships. Agents do well to be more communicative, and might work on broaching tough topics with clients. Clients could very well be waiting, looking for that prompt. If agents are able to be seen as the true experts they are and offer valid advice balanced with empathy and concern, clients will take note. Could an agent’s demeanor help to retain a client who otherwise would decide against maintaining a policy? It’s entirely possible. But regardless, a more welcoming style of communication can only help a difficult situation.

Final Thoughts, New Beginnings

So, after looking into Nationwide’s survey, we could ask, “What’s going on here?” It’s clear that there are some gaps to be bridged between what agents think they’re offering, and how customers perceive the situation. And it’s also been shown that education and communication are key to advancement and growth. That’s a pretty big ask, in these rocky times. But we know that if anyone is capable of making the shift, it’s our resilient agents. And at Bar List insurance network, we stand with you. So as you navigate the changing tides of client needs and industry demands, we’re here to help. As always, Bar List insurance network will be working hard, behind the scenes, to pair your expertise with companies that desperately need it. As insurers feel the crunch from consumers making some tough financial decisions, they will increasingly depend on agents’ flexibility and customer-centric approach. This is where we know our agents shine, and we’re proud to recommend these experts. So as norms shift and definitions are rewritten, be sure that Bar List will be a reliable resource and a ready help.