Ahead of its earnings call scheduled for this Wednesday, Allstate denied growing reports in online blogs, trade journals and in the general press of its plans to reduce its distribution network by 3,000-plus independent agents.

Maryellen Thielen, senior manager of Financial Communications, Allstate Corporate Relations, told Insurance Networking News that Allstate has not set targets for agency numbers or size, but qualified its goal of seeking to work with agents who can provide “superior levels of customer service.”

“It’s clear that growing agencies is good for our customers, the agencies and Allstate,” she said. “We’ve seen that agency locations in the range of $3 million to $4 million in premiums (between 3,000 to 4,000 policies in force) have the scale to support the staff and other resources needed to provide superior levels of customer service.”

Without specifying the metrics that would be used to measure Allstate’s desired level of customer service, Thielen did say that Allstate will provide smaller agencies with the incentives and resources necessary to meet and exceed those customer expectations.

“Some agencies may choose not to take this journey with us, but for agency owners committed to providing consistently superior levels of service, the opportunities have never been better to grow their agencies,” she said.

Allstate offered the following as examples of specific resources being promoted to their agents “to help Allstate agencies enhance the customer experience—and their success:”

• Agency technology: An Allstate Web site offers a self-assessment tool and other aids to help Allstate agents find opportunities to improve service (e.g., location and staffing) and grow.
• 24/7 support from the Allstate call centers
• Education: Allstate is providing tools to help customers understand their insurance better—for example, through its new “Auto Insurance Made Simple” brochure
• Detailed customer research down to the agency level
• Added support for Allstate premier service agencies, the designation for its highest performing agencies (based on business results and customer experience)

Analysts, meanwhile, are hedging their bets on Allstate’s earnings call, stating that, on average, the company is expected to report earnings per share (EPS) of $1.01. Last quarter (sequential), Allstate reported EPS of $0.99, missing consensus estimates of $1.01.  For the full year, the company is expected to post EPS of $3.39, predict analysts.

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