|PIA survey: what agency principals value most in insurance companies|
Agency principals consider claims-handling the most important yardstick for judging an insurance company, according to a recent study. Over 450 responded to a member survey conducted by the Professional Insurance Agents Associations in Connecticut, New Hampshire, New Jersey and New York in March 2009.
Principals rated "adjusts claims fairly" and "pays claims promptly" as the top two factors, in order of importance, when they evaluate an insurer. This outcome is striking, since these were the only two claims-related factors included in the survey.
The benchmark survey presented 35 company performance factors in all, and asked respondents how important they consider each item. PIA designed the survey as part of its on-going Company Performance Survey project.
"Each year we give members the opportunity to rate the companies they represent according to how well the carrier handles a number of critical functions," explained Diane K. Fowler, executive director of the PIA Associations. "This year, before opening the annual performance survey, we wanted to test our 16 standard performance items, plus some additional items that members also may see as important."
The Company Performance Survey project originated in 2002. It uses performance items developed by agents serving on PIA committees overseeing the project.
Besides the two claims-handling factors, agency principals awarded their highest average ratings to criteria involving carriers' communication, underwriting and service. Rounding out their top-ten list in order of importance:
Of the 456 people who participated, 354 were agency principals. Others in the agency could describe themselves as sales, service or underwriting staff.
All staff categories ranked claims-handling highly. Fairness scored number 1 or 2 in importance for all staff categories, while promptness made everyone's top-ten list.
"Making clients whole is the fundamental promise our members sell," said Ellen D. Kiehl, Ph.D., PIA senior research analyst. "The survey results confirm how much a company's follow-through matters to its agents when there's a claim."
All staff categories ranked "underwriter knowledge" and "consistent underwriting" among their top-ten factors. Also scoring high across the board were whether a company "communicates clearly" and "resolves issues quickly." Agency staff members (other than principals) especially favor having specific company "go-to" contacts for underwriting and service.
"Quality of service clearly overrides the 'profit-only' motive that agents are falsely accused of being driven by," said Jim Pittz , business issues director for the four state associations.
PIA 's 2009 Company Performance Survey opened May 8, 2009 in a new format shaped, in part, by results of the benchmark survey.
"Companies take the feedback they get from their agents via our surveys quite seriously," Kiehl said. "This year, besides their individual performance, companies will have a chance to see how they are doing in areas judged most important by agents over all."
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