10 Things Agencies Should Expect from Carriers

Working for an independent insurance agency can be challenging, and the job is even tougher if an insurer does not share your commitment to customer satisfaction.

In my position as a territory manager for an insurer, I partner with independent insurance agencies every day. The tasks may change, but my focus hinges on the core beliefs I have about what an insurance agency should expect from an insurer partner. Here are 10 things an insurance agency should expect:

  1. A focus on the customer. Both agencies and carriers should have a shared commitment to quality customer service. Making customers wait for days or even weeks to get an answer to their questions should not be acceptable. If a customer needs to know something, you should expect to get a prompt response from the insurer.
  2. An emphasis on long-term relationships. Successful agency-insurer relationships are built to last. If you are seeing a frequent turnover of insurer contacts and inconsistencies in information, that should be a red flag. For success, it’s critical that you have a go-to list of contacts you can count on. Here are some key questions to ask: Will the insurer have a specific manager assigned to help me? And do all agents have access to the product or are appointments limited?
  3. Trust. You should have confidence that the insurer will tell you the truth. This may seem like an overly basic idea, but it’s all too common for someone to tell you what they think you want to hear — not what will truly help you serve your customers. An insurer should be able to tell you quickly whether a customer fits the insurer’s risk profile, and the insurer should be able to talk to you openly.
  4. Easy-to-use technology. An insurer should offer the resources needed to provide automated quotes and information in a timely manner. To quickly assess this, ask questions like these: Does the insurer have a web portal that increases my efficiency? Is information pre-filled on an application where applicable? Can I complete a form without having to print it, sign it and scan it? Can I access the system easily using my phone?
  5. Availability when it matters most. If a major storm has just hit, will you be able to reach someone from the company at 3 a.m.? The best insurers are ready for such situations, with contingency plans in place.
  6. Transparency. Your insurer contact should be ready to give you updated financial information, whether it’s information about year-over-year performance, largest losses, or overall financial stability. After all, your credibility is on the line when you recommend an insurance carrier to your customer.
  7. Training. While working in an agency, I had access to an amazing niche product but it was extremely difficult to get information about the product. The website was limited to a specific internet browser that wasn’t common, there was little training available and brochures lacked current information. Guess how many policies I sold for the company? No surprise: very few.
  8. An understanding of your agency’s goals. A collaborative insurer partner will quickly get a feel for what your agency is looking to accomplish. How many new customers are you looking to bring on board in 2021? Are there possibilities for shared marketing outreach? And how are you working to keep your customers happy and engaged? The insurer should be asking you these kinds of questions and working to help you reach your goals.
  9. Support of professional associations and continuing education. I like a good mascot, but I want to be thought of as an insurance professional. With that in mind, carriers should support specialized seminars and continuing education opportunities that help agents constantly improve in their jobs.
  10. A commitment to the community. Does the insurer participate and give back in the communities where it does business? This active community involvement shows the character of who you are doing business with. Insurers who are in it for the long term see the value of contributing to the community, and not just for their brand awareness. A true spirit of giving back comes from wanting to help the customer, and in turn, the areas they live in.

You are probably seeing a common theme to these points. They all relate to how the insurer should make things easier for you as an agent, not harder to do business with. A long-term relationship built on these points will reduce wasted time and help you supply quality coverage for your customers. And that will be a win-win-win for your agency, your insurer, and your customer.