Customer retention is the top priority among property/casualty insurers this year, according to a new study. A Gartner survey of IT leaders in North America reported that 81 percent felt that customer retention is extremely important to them with customer acquisition ranking number five out of 10 and expanding relationships with existing customers rating number six out of 10.

"Insurers have increasingly been looking to customer retention as a means to preserve revenue and avoid customer churn," said Gartner Analyst Kimberly Harris-Ferrante.

The second-largest priority among respondents was promoting and building relationships with brokers and agents. Focus on strengthening relationships and building loyalty among the distribution channel is essential. Approximately 67 percent of survey respondents thought that agent relationships were extremely important, according to the study.

The report also found that the personal cloud will take users to a new level of flexibility with the devices they use for daily activities and require insurers to rethink how they deliver applications and services to users.

"Protecting the customer base through improved customer service is key for P&C insurers as well as helping to avoid negative brand images as consumers continue to use social media channels to share complaints and opinions about insurance companies in a public forum. Improving the customer experience and its impact on customer retention are key initiatives for P&C insurers in 2012," said Harris-Ferrante.

About 69 percent of respondents in the Gartner study indicated that modern claims and policy management systems were extremely important to them.

"We have seen an increasing number of property and casualty commercial and specialty line insurers seeking underwriting solutions to support complex decisioning that is done manually today without proper underwriting support or documentation,” Harris-Ferrante said.

Other technologies growing in interest include case management, underwriting solutions and fraud tools for underwriting and claims. All four of these technologies have had limited adoption in the past but are gaining more momentum among midsize to large P&C insurers that are undergoing core systems renovation projects.

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