Marcus Haith of Dodge Partners Insurance knew that at some point, he and his staff would need to embrace digital tools to meet their customers’ needs.
“Before, I thought only the younger people want to go digital, but I’ve seen customers of all ages going digital,” said Haith. “We’re learning which of our customers want to be self-sufficient, and which ones want us to handle their needs. We have got to be able to manage both.”
For Marcus and other agents around the country, the challenges of 2020 accelerated the need to adopt digital insurance processes. And while digitization has benefited customers and agents, the journey hasn’t been without a few rough patches.
New research released July 13 by Nationwide shows 93% of agents feel digitization has enhanced their agency’s success, but 8 in 10 also say they have found it difficult to integrate digital tools into their agency. This latest Agency Forward research (formerly Agent Authority) also revealed that while more consumers utilized technology during the pandemic, the agent/client relationship remains vital.
Nationwide’s research uncovered four key themes among consumers and the independent agents who serve them:
- Agents and consumers find added value using digital tools
- Agents have experienced some bumps in the road while implementing digital tools
- Consumers are using digital tools throughout their insurance journey
- Consumers still think having an insurance agent is important
“Agents want to work with carriers that can help them create a strong digital presence, enhance customer access, provide a better user experience, and assist in retaining customers,” said Beth Riczko, Nationwide’s president of P&C Personal Lines. “During the past year, Nationwide has worked to deploy technology that can help agents who need to sell and serve customers more effectively and has dedicated resources to help them implement and use those digital tools.”
Agents see the benefits of digital tools for their agency and clients but, at the same time, the research found 80% feel the digital integration has been a challenge.
The greatest challenge is the rising costs for 76% of agents, followed by having the resources to teach agents about the tools (72%), staying on top of and getting clients to use new technology (69%).
Consumers using digital tools throughout their insurance journey
- Nearly half of consumers associate digital insurance capabilities with online tools or mobile apps that help with filing claims and reviewing policies (48%), compare insurance policies and costs (46%), and make the claims process much faster (46%).
- In fact, 45% of consumers say working with a carrier with strong digital capabilities increases their customer satisfaction.
- The data also show consumers are using digital tools throughout their insurance journey: 48% of consumers have used a customer self-service website; 37% of consumers have used mobile apps for customer services and claims; and 36% have used online mobile tools to quote and compare policies and price.
“There are carriers out there that don’t have strong app capabilities, and my production force wants that as they’re trying to sell to clients and prospects,” Haith said. “Just having options that you can give customers, they want to be able to work with you, the way they want, and if a carrier does not provide the digital capabilities, it is a detriment to them.”
Consumers still think having an insurance agent is important
- 87% of consumers say an agent plays a critical role to the customer experience
- 88% of consumers still value being able to speak with an agent when they need one
- 57% of consumers prefer to have insurance agents located physically nearby — mostly for accessibility and trust
“While digital tools can make certain parts of the insurance experience easier, sometimes customers need to talk to someone to help them understand the nuances of insurance. That’s when an agent’s personal relationship with a customer can make a big difference,” added Riczko. “We invest in digital solutions that enable our agency partners to strike a balance between in-person support, when it’s needed, and empowering their customers to self-serve, when they choose.”