The hard market has independent agents “going the extra mile” to prioritize client communication, retention, technology and team morale.

Trusted Choice, the national consumer brand representing the members of the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America (the Big I), recently released a new report, Navigating the Hard Market: How Independent Agencies Are Reacting. The publication provides survey results and analysis on adaptive measures agents are implementing to navigate the current market.

“To work through challenging market conditions, independent insurance agents are innovating and going the extra mile to best serve and provide value to their clients,” said Charles Symington, Big I president and CEO.

“In this difficult market, the agents who are setting themselves apart are those who are adapting and improving communication, customer retention, technology, and the morale of their teams,” Symington said. “And no one is better positioned than independent agents to do all of that and assist their clients through these market cycles successfully.”

The survey found that independent agents are stepping up efforts in a few key areas to combat challenges presented by the marketplace. Overall, agencies are re-sharpening skills that may have fallen off in softer markets and using technology to give them an edge in everything from communications and marketing to management.

  • Communication is critical: Agents are prioritizing communication and investing in educating clients.
    • 65 percent of agencies have increased their communication to policyholders, 85 percent of those through email and 77 percent by phone.
    • 21 percent are increasing paid advertising spends
    • 47 percent are putting more effort toward community involvement
    • 75 percent are offering more educational content to clients
    • 27 percent of agencies put more resources into marketing, although 18 percent cut their marketing spend, saying they are using other ways to reach clients and prospects.
  • Retention and remarketing: Attention has shifted from acquisition to retention. 39 percent have prioritized clients by the largest premium impact to the client, with smaller percentages of member agencies refocusing their teams by size of account (8 percent) and complexity of account (7 percent). The survey also found that agencies are working on renewals farther in advance.
  • Implementing technology across the board:
    • 32 percent of small agencies (sized 1-10 staff) and 45 percent of large agencies (25+ staff) have added technology recently.
    • 18 percent of respondents said they added new technology systems or applications specifically to address the demand of this market.
    • 13 percent have added tech to help with automation, 10 percent have added tech for agency management and 10 percent have dedicated resources to website upgrades.
  • Maintaining team morale: Independent insurance agents have increased team communication and boosted perks such as company-paid lunches and extra time off. Where budgets allow, agencies are springing for raises or bonuses. There has also been an increased focus on team-building efforts, and more than half of the agencies responding have implemented new training initiatives to address the challenges of the market.

“With the industry’s ever-changing cycles, communication is even more critical than ever. Agents must remain focused on creating efficiencies in their touch points with clients,” said Kevin Brandt, executive director of Trusted Choice.

“Overcoming market challenges through active communication with clients and delivering innovative actions and solutions is essential,” Brandt said. “This is precisely how independent agents bring value in such climates.”

This article was originally published on Insurance Journal.