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PIA Research Leads to Development of Resources for Commercial Lines Agents

WASHINGTON – Extensive nationwide research conducted by the agency-company council of the National Association of Professional Insurance Agents (PIA) has led to the development of resources now being released to PIA affiliates and members nationwide...
February 1, 2016

Action Follows Extensive Research by The PIA Partnership

WASHINGTON – Extensive nationwide research conducted by the agency-company council of the National Association of Professional Insurance Agents (PIA) has led to the development of resources now being released to PIA affiliates and members nationwide.

The PIA Partnership has released research findings in “Small Business Insurance & The Internet — The Voice of the Commercial Lines Customer.” The findings were clear: choosing a Professional Insurance Agent continues to be the clear preference for small business insurance decision-makers. At the same time, the research also found that small business owners want agents to continue to demonstrate their value and are digitally engaged.

The newest additions to the program currently being unveiled help agents identify and access the many resources that The PIA Partnership companies make available to their agents. To learn more, watch our video about this exciting program.

“This second phase of The PIA Partnership’s project is a direct result of research findings by PIA and its partner carriers,” said PIA National Executive Vice President & CEO Mike Becker. “The results of the research were both an affirmation and a wake-up call for agents. Commercial lines customers want local agents as experts who are backed by the efficiency of the Internet.”

The Research

Some studies backed by direct writers and captives have contended that buyers of small and midsize business owners policies (BOPs) wanted to purchase such coverages online. PIA and The PIA Partnership decided that a more objective picture of buyer preferences was required.

The research project included qualitative focus group research, involving business owners and insurance decision-makers, conducted in multiple cities by research consulting firm The Pert Group; and quantitative research involving an online panel provided by Survey Sampling International, LLC (SSI), consisting of a random national sampling of 1,000 small business owners with companies of 50 employees or less.

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.

Agents the Clear Choice

The research found that choosing a Professional Insurance Agent continues to be the clear preference for small business insurance decision-makers. The attributes that are most important to small businesses when it comes to their insurance are those offered by independent agents. These include:

  • Belief in the person or company
  • Having a person who understands my business
  • Quick service response
  • Personal attention
  • Providing me with confidence that I am making the right insurance decisions

 

The research found that just as agents have adapted to change in the past, that adaptability is being called for again today as SBOs and decision-makers routinely use the Internet for shopping, evaluating and improving the efficiency with which they communicate and gain and share information.

Among other findings:

  • In order to be competitive, independent agents must have a full, credible online presence.
  • Small business owners most value agents with professional, industry-specific knowledge.
  • Most small business owners who shop for insurance online still lack confidence in themselves to make ideal insurance choices, and they want help.
  • Agents need to sell their value. Without more frequent demonstration of value, alternatives like bypassing the agent by going online will encroach further.

 

The research showed that even when the insurance process starts online, small business owners still want to depend on an agent to check and confirm, as well as validate and question assumptions. They overwhelmingly prefer such personal contact throughout the transaction.

This project is a follow-up to The PIA Partnership’s “Voice of the Customer—Personal Lines,” an extensive nationwide survey of personal lines insurance customers. It also clearly showed that consumers want what professional insurance agents offer: expert advice and counsel, personalized attention and interaction, the ability to offer comprehensive protection to meet individual needs and excellent “relationship-based” customer service.

Participating carriers in The PIA Partnership are: Central Insurance Companies; Encompass Insurance; Erie Insurance; Harleysville Insurance; Liberty Mutual Insurance; MetLife Auto & Home; Progressive Insurance; Selective Insurance Group; State Auto Group; The Hanover Insurance Group; The Hartford; and The Motorists Insurance Group.

“PIA would like to express its heartfelt appreciation to all of our carrier partners for their abiding commitment to the success and profitability of independent insurance agents and the companies they represent,” Becker said.

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.

Founded in 1931, PIA is a national trade association that represents member insurance agents and their employees who sell and service all kinds of insurance, but specialize in coverage of automobiles, homes and businesses. PIA members are Local Agents Serving Main Street America SM. PIA’s web address is www.pianet.com.

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