Most independent agents and producers have a choice of carriers with whom they can place their business. For insurers, understanding what influences independent agents' selection is crucial in a market where the number of independent distribution channels continues to rise.Providing the proper mix of products and services is an effective way to build producer loyalty, according to a survey of 450 independent agents and producers conducted by Celent Communications Inc., a Boston-based financial services research and advisory firm. Survey results also indicate that improving cycle times is particularly important for independent agents and producers, especially for such products as personal, commercial and workers' compensation.

Claims handling (63%), new business and underwriting support (57%) and underwriting speed (46%) are the top three differentiators among carriers, according to survey results.

"Specific technology approaches are not dramatic differentiators on their own when compared to broader service qualities, such as claims and new business reports," writes Craig Weber, a senior insurance analyst with Celent and author of the report, "Independent Producer Survey: Technology, Services and Other Drivers of Carrier Choice."

Also, when survey respondents were asked to rank the importance of potential IT projects that carriers should implement, agency management system upload was their top choice, followed by proprietary agent portals for new business submission, download capabilities for agency management systems, and automatic, event-driven e-mail notification to agents.

Agent Satisfaction

Agents' satisfaction with services and technology provided by carriers.

Source: Celent Communications Inc. 2004 Producer Survey

Carrier Choice

Top five carrier attributes that influence agents' decision to work with a carrier.

Note: Data reflect percentage of respondents who indicated category was among their top three.

Source: Celent Communications Inc. 2004 Producer Survey.

New Business Data Entry

How is insurance application information captured electronically?

Source: Celent Communications Inc. 2004 Producer Survey

Agent Tools

Percentage of agents using various technologies, and frequency of use.

Several times Once a day- Rarely Don't

a day Once a week use have

High-speed Internet 93% 2% 1% 3%

Agency management system 70% 10% 4% 17%

Proprietary carrier Web sites 59% 22% 14% 4%

Handheld device/PDA 19% 7% 6% 69%

Agency Web site 35% 20% 21% 23%

Source: Celent Communications Inc. 2004 Producer Survey

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