It’s no secret that agents and brokers continuously rank “ease of doing business” as one of their top priorities when choosing a carrier partner. The subject of a recent survey, 7,800 independent agents and brokers were asked to rank more than 200 property/casualty carriers, and name their top performers.

In its 8th annual survey, Acton, Mass.-based Deep Customer Connections asked agents to rate how easy it is to place business with carriers based on 11 factors:
    Agency Needs—The carrier understands and acts on the needs of agency personnel.
    Underwriter Response —The carrier is responsive in underwriting.
    Once/Done—The carrier enables the agent to quote and issue policies without rework.
    Underwriter Flex—The carrier is flexible in underwriting.
    Policy Services—The carrier provides timely, accurate policy services.
    Technology—The carrier provides effective, user-friendly technology.
    Claims Prompt—The carrier handles claims promptly.
    Claims Fair—The carrier handles claims fairly.
    Market Support—The carrier provides marketing support.
    Insurance Expert—The carrier provides insurance expertise and support.
    EDB Insured—The carrier makes it easy for the agent to work with the policyholder.

The report notes that this year’s ranking lists the most important factors as handling claims promptly and fairly and being responsive in underwriting. Those factors show large gaps between importance and performance ratings, indicating where agents particularly see a need for improvement. There are also large gaps between importance and performance ratings in other factors, especially in underwriting flexibility, agency needs, and technology.

There is considerable variation in the Technology Index, reflecting carriers’ successes as well as outcomes that have not matched agents’ expectations and needs, notes the report. One steadily climbing Index is the EDB Insured factor―making it easier for the agent to work with his customer, the policyholder. According to agents’ comments, much of this is due to carriers providing agents and policyholders with better billing tools and options along with more access to policy information.

This year there is a virtual tie for the top spot between three top carriers: MEMIC, a workers’ compensation carrier headquartered in Maine, and West Bend Mutual Insurance Co. and ACUITY, both multi-lines carriers headquartered in Wisconsin.

In addition to sharing the overall top spot, West Bend earned Top 10 status in every one of 11 key-factor categories. ACUITY made the top ten in eight individual factors and MEMIC in seven factors.

In rank order other carriers which earned overall Top 10 status include:
4. SECURA Insurance Companies
5. MMG Insurance Company
6. Frankenmuth Insurance
7. Central Insurance Companies
8. Westfield Insurance Company
9. Auto-Owners Insurance
10. United Fire Group

“Industry-wide, the overall Index stabilized after a small decline last year,” said Nort Salz, president of Deep Customer Connections. “But there is more change in individual factors with the Index falling in some and climbing in others. This data helps carriers identify improvement opportunities and priorities, which is particularly useful in these times of tight resources.”

John Uzzi, senior associate at the firm, noted that 45,000 independent agents have participated in our research over the past 8 years. “This response speaks volumes about how important it is for carriers to make it easier for their agents to write business.”

The report notes a clear message: The carriers who will win are those who:
    • Are more responsive in underwriting in terms of promptness, underwriting competence, and demonstrate a problem-solving, can-do attitude.
    • Develop and maintain strong relationships with agencies, enabling them to be proactive (rather than just being responsive) in their underwriting.
    • Handle claims promptly and fairly.
    • Provide agents with technology tools that enable the agent to be responsive to his or her customers.

As for the winners, Paul Croke, co-founder of Deep Customer Connections believes that “acknowledging carriers’ superior performance helps improve service and productivity in this key insurance distribution channel. We’re proud to acknowledge these superior performers, and we congratulate these carriers who continue to make improvements and set the bar for the rest of the industry.”

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