Independent agents have never been more satisfied with their carrier partners, and overall satisfaction for both personal and commercial lines has once again reached an all-time high, according to the J.D. Power 2022 U.S. Independent Agent Satisfaction Study.

Overall satisfaction among personal lines agents was up 7 points from 2021, coming in at 757 (on a 1,000-point scale). On the commercial lines side, carriers earned an overall satisfaction score of 756—a 16-point jump from a year ago. J.D. Power said the largest gains in satisfaction with commercial lines are in product offerings and risk appetite; support and communication; quoting; and commission.

Erie Insurance came in No. 1 in satisfaction on the personal lines side, with a score of 838, followed by Auto-Owners Insurance (817) and The Hanover (805) to round out the top 3. For commercial lines, Auto-Owners Insurance took the top spot with a score of 836, followed by Cincinnati Insurance (812) and The Hartford (794).

The study, which was developed with the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America, evaluates the evolving role of independent agents in P/C insurance distribution, general business outlook, management strategy and overall satisfaction.

“The past two years have been tough for insurance agents, particularly in the commercial lines space where many businesses have been struggling,” said Stephen Crewdson, senior director, Insurance Business Intelligence at J.D. Power.

“What we’re seeing now in the data is the normalization of the marketplace and a return to more frequent and more positive interactions between agents and carriers. Importantly, we’re also seeing trends that suggest the changes made since the pandemic—such as increased digital engagement and updates to legacy systems with new platforms and portals—are having a positive effect on the agent/carrier relationship,” Crewdson added.

Other key findings of the study:

  • The use of digital channels for interaction with carriers increased 22 percentage points this year, while in-person interaction increases 8 percentage points. Overall satisfaction is highest when agents interact via digital channels, J.D. Power found.
  • Digital carrier platforms and web portals, which have been widely updated by the industry during the past few years, can have a positive effect on agent satisfaction—but only if they are fully integrated. Complete seamless integration between carrier portals and agency management systems drives a substantial boost in agent satisfaction, but incomplete or inconsistent integration has a negative effect on satisfaction. Just 51 percent of personal lines agents and 46 percent of commercial lines agents say they have seamless integration with carrier portals.
  • Agents with the highest levels of satisfaction fall into the relationship tenure sweet spot of 2-10 years. Agents who have been working with carriers for both shorter and longer periods of time are less satisfied overall, suggesting that carriers need to refine their approaches to newer as well as more seasoned agents.

The study was fielded from May to July 2022 and resulted in 4,670 evaluations of personal and commercial lines insurers with which agents had placed policies during the prior 12 months.