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Agents Win: Groundbreaking Research by The PIA Partnership

Extensive nationwide research conducted by The PIA Partnership has found that small business owners strongly prefer independent insurance agents as they make choices in today's online world, but that agents must take steps to continue to demonstrate their value and also be more engaged online...
August 13, 2015

Extensive nationwide research conducted by The PIA Partnership has found that small business owners (SBOs) strongly prefer independent insurance agents as they make choices in today's online world, but that agents must take steps to continue to demonstrate their value and also be more engaged online.

The research results are part of "Small Business Insurance & The Internet—The Voice of the Commercial Lines Customer," the latest project of PIA and The PIA Partnership, designed to provide independent insurance agents with tools to meet the new challenges posed by online providers and direct writers.

"Our results affirm that while small business owners continue to greatly value the professional advice and personal service of an independent agent, there is an expectation that their agent will be more capable of online interaction concerning their accounts and that the agency will have a fully credible online presence," said PIA National Executive Vice President & CEO Mike Becker. "This is both an affirmation and a wake-up call for agents."

The research by PIA and The PIA Partnership also found that what is evolving over time is how some customers would like to see what they value delivered when it comes to their insurance in today's online business environment. This presents new opportunities for independent agents in how they reach and serve their customers.

"Some studies backed by direct writers and captives had contended that buyers of small and midsize business owners policies wanted to purchase such coverages online," said PIA Partnership Chairman John Petrucci. "We decided that a more objective picture of buyer preferences was required."

"The message is clear," said Petrucci. "The Internet is here to stay. It is not the opponent of agents. But while it can be a source for competition, it can also provide an opportunity for agents when they use it to their own advantage. Responding is about evolution, not revolution. The changes taking place in the marketplace provide an excellent opportunity for independent agents to increase their dominance in the CL market, but the one thing that is not an option for independent agents is inaction."

"Much has been said and written about plans by companies such as Google attempting to challenge the dominance of independent insurance agents in commercial lines," said PIA National President Richard A. Clements. "That's why we asked commercial lines customers what they want. We found they want what we provide, and that they also want us to provide more. As for competition, I say what agents have always said: 'Bring it on!'"

For more detailed research results, see the project website at http://voiceoftheclcustomer.com/.

The PIA Partnership, originally established as the Company Council of Executive Officers (CCEO) in 1996, is a group of insurance companies that work collaboratively with PIA National to conduct research and develop tools and resources designed to benefit professional independent insurance agents.

Current PIA Partnership companies include: Encompass Insurance; Erie Insurance; Harleysville Insurance; Liberty Mutual Insurance; MetLife Auto & Home; Progressive Insurance; Selective Insurance Group; State Auto Group; The Central Insurance Companies; The Hanover Insurance Group; The Hartford; and The Motorists Insurance Group.

Study: Small-business Owners Prefer Digitally Engaged, Responsive Independent Agents (National Underwriter 8/10/15)
PIA Press Release (8/10/15)