When it comes to building new business, the property/casualty insurance industry has split in two. Some companies in the marketplace are great at acquiring customers; others are brilliant at retaining them. Few successfully accomplish both, Bain & Co. has concluded in a new report.
“Very few carriers excel in both acquisition and retention,” Bain analysts David Whelan and Sean O’Neill wrote in their report on customer loyalty in the P/C industry, which is based on a survey of nearly 26,500 U.S. P/C consumers and 3,600 auto insurance consumers.
The reason seems to be a culture clash in both approach and execution. Carriers that do well in acquiring new customers tend to draw in people who are sensitive to price and will bail for a rival carrier when they see a better deal, the Bain report said. These folks are younger, make less money and don’t have as many insurance needs.
On the other hand, companies that do well keeping customers attract older people who aren’t price sensitive. This customer class also makes more money, has more complex insurance needs and focuses on “peace of mind”—i.e., having everything they value covered by the appropriate policy.
P/C companies taking one approach or the other essentially are left with a demographic barrier that makes it a struggle for either side to produce robust profitable growth, Bain said. Consider that in 2013, the U.S. P/C industry produced 1 percent new customer growth in auto and 4 percent in home, Bain said. P/C combined produced 2 percent growth.
New customers are good, of course, but Bain said that the growth that took place actually came more from customers moving from one P/C insurance rival to another, rather than anything organic.
So what is a U.S. P/C insurer to do to reverse this and get better at both building a new customer base and retaining those clients over time?
The Bain report recommends a number of solutions. Among them: Insurers should “wow” customers with great service, technological advances, superb claims handling, and a demonstration of responding to customers’ complaints and concerns. In other words, make customers feel like they are dealing with human beings who care about the outcome of the service interaction.
Bain also said insurers should give consumers an “omnichannel experience,” enabling them to accomplish their insurance needs easily in person, by video chat with an agent, through mobile app or website. Insurers that offer these options must also coordinate closely between their underwriting, claims, finance, call center and agents. Those companies tend to attract customers who become more satisfied, Bain said, and who buy more insurance products in the process.
“The expectation of using any channel pervades all customer segments, regardless of age, income or insurance needs,” Bain said in the report. “And over the next three to five years, the share of digitally active U.S. customers is expected to increase substantially.”
Bain also recommended that insurers refine their marketing in order to be more selective about the customers they seek out. Companies such as Progressive and GEICO advertise heavily with a successful business model that attracts customers seeking lower prices, Bain said. But that customer class tends to move on more quickly than the rest. Bain said companies seeking to attract and keep their customers should focus on broader themes such as “peace of mind” and “service.” They should make their marketing more of a niche approach to target the customer segments that would stick around (customers with growing families, for example). Bain also recommended that insurers mine data about the customers they want and then target their pitches accordingly.
There are other options that could also work, Bain said, such as blending product and pricing innovation to keep customers who prefer lower prices. This can involve advances in technology. But product design also can make a difference, such as Nationwide’s “Vanishing Deductible” or Allstate’s “Accident Forgiveness” incentives, Bain said.
“Price matters a lot to P/C customers in the U.S., and its importance likely will endure as refinements to the Internet make comparison shopping easier,” Bain said. “To retain a larger share of new customers, then, insurers will be pressed to step up their product and pricing innovations so customers have strong reasons to stay and even to buy more products.”