There are few things in life that one can definitely count on, but every October I know to expect a birthday card from my insurance agent—hand-addressed and signed by his entire office staff. I suspect many of my agent’s other patrons are afforded the same honor, but as I think of the reasons I’ve remained with the same insurer for more than a decade, it’s periodic interactions such as this that have brightened my day and helped keep my insurer’s competitors from taking my business.

Executive Summary

Personal lines insurers are beginning to use techniques from the commercial lines insurer's playbook to differentiate themselves from the competition, says ISO's Jim Weiss. According to Weiss, insurers can use telematics and aerial imagery to provide personal lines policyholders with loss control experiences and a frequency of interaction that is similar to commercial lines counterparts.

Many personal lines (PL) insurers have, to their detriment, given the impression that their policyholders’ billing dates are more important than their birth dates. Recent surveys indicate that 44 percent of consumers had no interactions with their insurance companies during the previous 18 months. In contrast, 57 percent of consumers preferred to interact with their carriers at least semiannually. (For more on the survey, see related Carrier Management online article, “Insurers Fall Short in the Customer Service Department: Ernst & Young.”) When some large retailers begin serving as distribution channels for insurance (as Walmart announced in second-quarter 2014), it’s not unreasonable to conclude that the PL product has been commoditized to the point of becoming rather impersonal. (See related articles, “Shopping Site Overstock.com Offering Insurance Online” and “Walmart Joining Overstock.com in Insurance Shopping Game.“)

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