Nationwide Study Reinforces that Customers Increasingly Demand Speed and Knowledge from Carriers and Agents

A Nationwide survey confirmed that business owner customers want a fast and easy experience and prefer to work with knowledgeable agents and insurers while benefiting from the tech advances aiding claims.
By: | January 21, 2022

Nationwide recently published its latest Agency Forward survey of independent insurance agents, small- and middle-market business owners and consumers. The survey is designed to help agents manage and grow their business through timely and relevant content.

Three common themes emerged from the survey reflecting current industry trends:

  1. Speed, ease of doing business and industry expertise are prioritized most highly by business owners.
  2. Digital tools and innovations in technology simplify the claims experience.
  3. Risk management through proactive planning helps avoid disruption.

As agents meet with their clients to plan for the year ahead, it is paramount to recommend proactive risk management strategies to stay ahead of new challenges and avoid disruption.

The global pandemic has taught us the value of anticipating changes and challenges in every line of business and industry.

Speed and Industry Knowledge Critical for Business Owner Customers

Not surprisingly, Nationwide’s survey confirmed that business owner customers need a fast and easy experience and prefer to work with knowledgeable agents and insurers.

Mark McGhiey, senior associate vice president of loss control services, Nationwide

Some common issues that caused dissatisfaction among customers who filed a claim included challenges with tracking the claim, complaints about the speed or ease of the claims process, and criticisms that their agent wasn’t helpful.

An interesting finding from the survey showed that 48% of small business owner respondents and 32% of middle-market respondents wanted access to their agent or claims adjuster by telephone.

With much of the insurance process turning digital, this is a helpful reminder that some parts of the insurance ecosystem require more of a human touch than others. Claims represent one such moment of truth when customers may need more personal assistance.

Digital Tools Combined with the Human Touch Lead the Way

Advances in technology and digital tools are helping to simplify the claims experience. And while the advances in technology help streamline claims, many clients still prefer to rely on their agent during the claims process.

Nationwide’s survey found about half of the respondents cited their agent’s help as the primary driver of their satisfaction with the claims process.

Mark McGhiey, senior associate vice president of loss control services at Nationwide commented on this finding: “With the pandemic, business owners have become much more willing to use the many virtual risk management and loss control tools available to them. The key to maximizing the benefit of digital tools is having professionals (agencies or carriers) available to answer questions and help tailor the resources to meet the risk’s specific situation.”

Clients have more access to digital tools — and more desire to use the tools.

Nationwide’s survey found an uptick in the use of online claims reporting, digital payments, and its nurse triage service.

McGhiey expanded on this, “Nationwide has seen increases in the utilization of our successful return to work program, our fleet safety tool and online safety training resources. While these digital programs are not new, they have become more effective due to business owners’ increased need to leverage virtual solutions to help address their needs.”

The survey highlighted another challenge for the industry.

While approximately 85% of agents believed the claims process was fast and easy, only 37% of business owner customers agreed. This variance shows a critical need to focus on the voice of the customer through the next evolution of the claims process.

Digital tools and innovations in technology must now focus on improving the customer journey.

Risk Management Through Proactive Planning

The survey found that business owners are concerned with widespread disruptions from risks like pandemics, cyber attacks, natural catastrophes and employee injuries. Eighty percent of small business owners cited risk management as a high priority, yet close to 30% of small business owners have no risk management in place at all.

This gap presents an opportunity for agents to help their small business owner clients be more proactive.

“Businesses need to be looking at all types of events with the potential to interrupt business functions or services and plan for them,” McGhiey said.

“Most businesses will establish a disaster recovery or emergency action plan, but for a true business continuity plan, a business must start by performing a risk and vulnerability assessment to get a clearer picture of what type of crises they could face and in what ways they could cause disruptions.”

Nationwide’s survey found opportunity areas for small business owners to focus on various risk management techniques.

Online resources like safety videos, digital risk management tools, and the development of safety programs and training guidelines are examples of risk mitigation tools and techniques business owners can use as part of their risk management program.

What’s Next for Business Clients

There’s always a new risk on the horizon for small and middle-market business owners, and in this case, the risk is already here.

“The next big risk for business is already here and it is cybersecurity. Many businesses believe they have taken the proper steps to improve their cybersecurity.”

But the risk for cyber attacks continues to grow and businesses of every size are at risk.

More connected devices, a greater reliance on IoT, and a greater number of employees connecting to company servers remotely all increase cyber risks.

McGhiey explained how agents can work proactively to help their clients prepare for this growing threat: “Agents and carriers can help by educating their insureds on cybersecurity exposures, what protection measures they can take to prevent cyber attacks, which cybersecurity experts they can consult with and what coverages would be best for their operations.”

Agents have an opportunity to work proactively to help their business owner clients with risk management and mitigation by using innovative digital tools combined with their knowledge and expertise. The right balance of experience and digitization is the next step for agents and business owners. &

Abi Potter Clough, MBA, CPCU, is a keynote speaker, author and business consultant focused on Insurtech, leadership and strategy. She has over 15 years of experience at a Fortune 500 company with expertise in P&C claims operational leadership, lean management consulting, digital communications and Insurtech. As the past chair of the International Insurance Interest Group of the CPCU Society, Abi remains involved in many international initiatives and projects. She has published two books about change management and relocation. Abi can be reached at [email protected].

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