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Walmart First. Now Google. But the Independent Agent Still Wins

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, January 20, 2015


Clark Sitzes
PIA Western Alliance
Executive Vice President

Before we begin, PIA Western Alliance Executive Vice President Clark Sitzes said this is one of the most important stories Weekly Industry News has done in a long time. Its also one of the most important reasons your membership in the PIA delivers incomparable value.

The PIA works non-stop to defend the independent agency system. As youll see as you read deeper into this story, the association studies consumer needs and we find ways to help you give your clients what they want. This association gives you tried and true methods to help you market your agency, and we give you advice on how to connect to your community and overcome the effects of direct writers, Walmart and now Google, Sitzes said.

In other words, we are Main Street. And Main Street has advantages that huge conglomerates cannot match. And with that, here is the story.

Big box stores apparently arent profitable enough. So Walmart got into the insurance selling business. Google the search engine giant has been selling auto insurance in Great Britain for two years. The firm is now launching an auto insurance business in the U.S. as well. And you could see it as soon as this quarter.

The new insurer is called Google Compare Auto Insurance Services Inc.

Here are the details. Googles insurance partner is Compare.com and it features 30 insurers including Mercury, Viking and MetLife. These companies are already doing direct writing as does Compare.com so not much is that different.

Its just that Google is now more or less a middle man.

Google is allowed to operate and sell insurance in the PIA Western Alliance states of Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Oregon and Washington. Look for approval soon in the PIA Western Alliance state of California, too.

It is also licensed to work in Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Is that bad news for the independent agent? Its not good news but its not the end of the world.

What this emphasizes is the need for you to step up and tell your story. A few years ago in a speech to the PIA Washington/Alaska membership, then president Heidi Duncan talked about being raised by her insurance agent father. She watched him go out into the community and help people. He made people whole after fires and robberies, car crashes and other disasters.

She called him a super hero.

The point is a good one. You are super heroes and that is something direct writers, Walmart and Google and other insurance wannabes cannot be to people facing and experiencing disaster.

You may not be able to out google Google or waylay Walmart but you can out local both. In other words, you are local. You can interact with your consumers in person. Google and Walmart cannot. 

The PIA Western Alliance and its affiliate chapters and PIA National have been urging you to tell your clients and your communities that you are super heroes. We have also offered proof. It comes via an 18-month study done by PIA National showing people prefer doing business with an independent agent over a direct writer.

That news is good news and its your edge against the Walmarts and the Googles.

The study is titled Touch PointsThe Voice of the Customer. Its conclusion is people want these things from an independent insurance agent:

  Expert advice and counseling

  Personalized attention and interaction

  The ability to offer comprehensive protection to meet individual needs

  Relationship-based customer service

And trusting the independent insurance agent or the company ranks 28% higher than any other factor in the study. Heres more of what the survey found:

  Consumers want good value when purchasing insurance.

  After good value, they want to work with an individual and trust them to take care of all their insurance needs.

  What agents are able to do for consumers tops choice of companies and coverages.

  Agents in the minds of those surveyed deliver value that cannot be found by direct writers or a Google or a Walmart.

  69% of customers want personal contact and want their insurance agent to suggest added coverage if theyre under insured or to suggest coverage they may be missing.

  79% want to be contacted in person at renewal time.

  81% want contact when the agent decides they can save money.

  Consumers want contact every six-months or less if there are changes in their lives that might require an insurance adjustment.

  63% want personal contact and a general review of their insurance every six months.

  73% want you to hear from you more often than just at renewal time.

  85% say it is important or very important that they are contacted via their preferred method.

Theres more but you get the point. Here are some links from PIA National and this is one of the many big reasons you want to continue your membership in the PIA that give you some strategies to overcome direct writers and the Walmarts and the Googles.

Click here for PIA Nationals link on its news release for the Touch PointsThe Voice of the Customer survey.

Click here to view Ernst and Youngs customer survey.

Click here to see the Touch PointsThe Voice of the Customer survey.

And PIA National offers more.

Click here for brochures to share with your customers and with consumers in the community.

Click here for links to the PIA Nationals Annual Marketing Guides.

Click here for even more information on how to compete with direct writers and the Googles and the Walmarts.

If youre not a PIA member or if you are and if you want more information on the PIA and what we have to offer, please contact Debbie Wilkinson who heads up Marketing and Membership for the PIA Western Alliance and the PIA affiliate chapters of Oregon/Idaho, Washington/Alaska, Montana and the group states of Alaska, Arizona, California and New Mexico.

You can reach Debbie at 888-246-4466 x126 or via email at: debbie@piawest.com.

Tags:  Insurance Content  Insurance Industry  Insurance News  Walmart First. Now Google. But the Independent Age  Weekly Industry News 

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