Professional insurance agents have what insurance customers are looking for, according to research results issued by the PIA Partnership. The PIA Partnership is a group of insurance companies that works collaboratively with PIA National to conduct research and develop tools and resources designed to benefit professional independent insurance agents. PIA is a national trade association that represents member insurance agents and employees who sell and service all kinds of insurance.

Their most recent collective efforts include an 18-month research effort that targeted insurance customers of all types from across the country, to find out more about what they are looking for and what they expect from personal lines insurance providers.

The research, "Touch Points — The Voice of the Customer," revealed professional insurance agents are providing elements required by their customers: expert advice and counseling, personalized attention and interaction, the ability to offer comprehensive protection to meet individual needs and excellent "relationship based" customer service.

The project began as research into customer attitudes and preferences aimed at identifying the specific advantages PIA members have in competing on the basis of "more than just the lowest price." Two online surveys collecting 1,819 responses were conducted utilizing the "General Marketing Survey Panel" provided by Survey Sampling International, LLC. The demographic distribution of survey respondents tracks well with the general demographics of the U.S. population, says the group.

According to key findings:

1. After good value, customers want to be able to trust someone who will take care of them when it comes to their insurance. "Value in the rates they find me," "That they are taking care of my insurance needs" and "Trust in the person or company" are ranked 28% higher than other factors surveyed.

2. The fact that agents are able to offer them a choice of companies (and coverages) is not the most important thing. What's important is what agents are able to do for them. From the customer's point of view, what's important to them is agents deliver value.

3. If the price of two policies is nearly the same, they would most likely choose one over the other based on better coverage or a lower deductible. The survey results show that customers care about coverage and rank "better coverage" as the top reason to choose between two policies which cost about the same.

4. Sixty nine percent of customers want to be contacted when their insurance agent or company has a suggestion for them to add coverage they may be missing or increase coverage when they may be underinsured.

5. Seventy nine percent of customers want to be contacted by their insurance agent or company when their policy renewal date is approaching.

6. Eighty one percent of customers want to be contacted when their insurance agent or company has a suggestion for how they could save money on their insurance.

7. Sixty seven percent 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.

8. Sixty three percent 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.

9. Seventy three percent of customers want to hear from their current insurance provider more often than just at renewal.

10. Eighty five percent of customers say it is either important or very important that they are contacted by their preferred method.

Current PIA Partnership companies include: Encompass; Erie Insurance; Harleysville Insurance; Liberty Mutual Agency Corporation; MetLife Auto & Home; Motorists Insurance Group; Progressive Casualty Insurance Company; Selective Insurance Group; State Auto Group; The Central Insurance Companies; The Hartford; and Travelers.

Pat Speer writes for Insurance Networking News, a SourceMedia publication.

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