Commercial insurance: your next clients will have new expectations.

By JASON KECK

Commercial insurance hasn’t exactly embraced technology. This is a business with a curious affinity for things like forms done in triplicate, faxes, and hand-written notes brought back to the office following a meeting. Change can be slow, and old habits die hard.

For now.

More and more agencies are adopting fresh approaches and leveraging online tools to increase efficiency and reduce the amount of time it takes to secure coverage. A big reason? More and more of their customers expect it.

Maybe you think your clients are different. They have been with you for years, they manage with the process that’s currently in place, they aren’t exactly what anyone would call Early Adopters. Sure, you say, they use technology frequently in their day-to-day life. But you don’t think it drives their business decision-making.

You could be right, despite plenty of evidence suggesting that even older generations are relying on technology more with each passing year. But even if you discount those findings, there’s another reality: the clients you have now are going to be replaced by new clients with very different expectations. After all, that’s how the cycle goes. Eventually, everyone retires or passes a business on to a younger family member or sells and tries to convince themselves they enjoy golf.

Your newest customers probably won’t be Boomers or even from Gen X. Chances are, they’re going to be millennials. For one thing, Millennials aren’t kids anymore—the oldest members of this group are just a couple of years away from turning 40. The generation that embraced technology like no other before is rapidly approaching middle age, and they are doing things like having children, buying houses, and yes, running companies.

Millennials will buy insurance differently.

An I-need-it-now mentality has taken over, and the typical millennials consumer is accustomed to securing products or services with just a few clicks. It doesn’t matter if it’s groceries, clothes, office supplies, or yes, commercial insurance. According to Forbes, over 50% of millennials use Uber or Lyft, compared to 29% of Gen Xers and 15% of Boomers. When they need something, they expect to be able to get it without much friction, and commercial insurance will be no different.

Research compiled by UPS shows this generation completes 32% of its purchases from a laptop or desktop computer, and makes another 49% of its purchases on a phone or a tablet. Boots or burgers, televisions or travel, there is simply no ceiling on what this group will buy from an online resource.

"Millennials are leading a change in purchase trends," said Rodney Mason, global vice president of marketing at Blackhawk Engagement Solutions.

With that kind of momentum, it’s hard to believe that customers who identify as millennials will want to purchase commercial insurance like their parents did. Paper? Scanning? And what the—is that a fax?  

Less time on boring stuff.

Sure, millennials haven’t abandoned the mall. Studies indicate they often research products online before making a purchase at a physical store. But when they buy something that way, they’re motivated by being able to touch, feel, see, or try something on. As far as we know, people don’t need to do that with their commercial insurance coverage. Sure, they still want a broker who is a trusted advisor, but they have plenty of things they would rather do than sit through a conference call discussing their D&O coverage.

More pressing for commercial insurance brokers, however, is the fact that millennials rely on the internet to make purchases easier, especially when it’s something they are not particularly excited about. And guess what? Securing insurance coverage for their company does not make a typical millennial’s heart race.

While securing coverage that will protect their company and their own future should be a priority, the inescapable fact is that it remains the kind of purchase they want to make as quickly and simply as possible. If the hassle factor is high, they are likely to take their business elsewhere. After all, they’re used to being able to do exactly that.

Think about a restaurant that doesn’t provide Door Dash delivery, or a taxi company that requires a phone call to reserve a cab versus swiping a phone and arranging for a ride share service to show up in a few minutes. These days, companies that have more barriers between desire and fulfillment are going to struggle. But if the target customer is a millennial? Well, then it’s a deal breaker.

With each new app and each new software application that automates any tedious process, millennials—along with the generations behind them—become increasingly accustomed to simplicity. They expect it. Demand it. There are all kinds of things constantly competing for their attention, and they want to leverage technology to steal time and focus on the activities they most want to pursue, whether that’s a child’s activity, a gig with their band, or a day at a gaming tournament.

What can you do as a commercial insurance agency to appeal to millennials?

Here’s a start: imagine your agency as a store. If there’s anything millennials demand, it’s a great shopping environment. That doesn’t matter if it’s an actual physical location or an online experience—there are simply too many good options and millennials are not willing to waste their time with anything that’s just mediocre. Or worse.

If you’re thinking, “Hey, we’re an insurance agency, not some shop at the mall selling sunglasses,” you need to remind yourself that in this era, everybody has a store. For an insurance agency, your web site is an entrance. If it’s a new customer, it’s their first impression. And don’t forget, that new customer could be the millennial daughter of the longtime owner who just retired and handed over the reins.

Once they see your storefront, how is the shopping experience? According to Cassandra, an organization focused on millennial trends, 70% dislike loud and busy. Take an unflinching look at your web site. Is it a jumble of noisy graphics and confusing drop-down menus? If it is, you need to reconsider both its appearance and its navigation.

Just as importantly, how easy is it for a prospect to complete an application or a renewal? In commercial insurance, that’s your purchase process. Can your millennial prospect or returning customer walk through a purchase process as easily as they can on Amazon?  Think about other sites and how great web forms make the process intuitive. Fields are large and easy to fill—there are no tiny windows that are difficult to load with information. Fields pre-fill whenever possible. In other words, make sure it’s as simple as possible. If your online process looks even a little bit like a project from 2007, don’t expect millennials to hang around long.

Whenever there’s a stumbling block—a section that’s not intuitive, a clunky transfer to the enrollment section, information requested after it has been submitted previously—you risk losing your millennial customers. It’s not even because they are particularly impatient—they are simply conditioned to a better process.

Going forward, they’re going to work with the agencies that deliver just that—seamless, intuitive, automated approach to commercial insurance. Is your agency ready for that?

Jason Keck is the founder and CEO of Broker Buddha. An  entrepreneur with 20 years of experience in the digital space and a Computer Science degree from Harvard, Jason previously worked as the Head of Business Development for Shazam and was the Head of Product Partnerships at Tumblr. He is intent on transforming commercial insurance through our intuitive software, to free up valuable time for agents so they can focus on serving their clients and growing their book of business.



Published on:

Thursday, November 7, 2019