What do your insurance clients actually need? Ask them

The first step to conducting research on customer needs is to ask, rather than assume, what your customers want, suggested Robin Shufelt, CEO at First Acre Insurance — a new farming MGA.  

Yet, despite the insurance industry investing nearly $28 billion on customer experience in 2021, fewer than half of global respondents (49%) said they felt their insurance provider was responsive to their basic needs, according to research by insurance software company EIS. 

Whether you’re a broker brainstorming the best methods for selling based on your clients’ behaviours, or an underwriting firm adapting its coverage options to remain relevant, conducting regular research on your customers’ needs will cut down on guesswork.  

“It really is the [organization’s] mindset to bring the customer voice into everything we do,” Shufelt said, “but it’s more challenging than it seems, because you’re always asking yourself, ‘Do I have a preconceived bias on what I think the customer wants?’ 

“Early on, we did speak to farmers and brokers,” she added regarding the company’s pre-launch preparation. “We would all agree that not one of us predicted what we were going to come up with. To me, the success [was] that we did not ‘solution’ before we spoke to our potential customers.” 

The key to ensuring a successful product is getting the right customer feedback, and the approach needed to accomplish that may differ from one firm to another.  

For Shufelt and her team, “We’ll do everything [to access] research about all Canadian farmers to get an external view; we’ll use our own knowledge of working on farms; we’ll call farmers, we’ll call brokers and speak to them.” 

But the effort doesn’t stop there. Customer needs can change on a whim, and that requires constant engagement. Take, for example, how quickly driving habits changed during the pandemic, and how quickly they bounced back afterwards. 

“That communication needs to keep going,” she said. “We’re continuously going back to hear from farmers: “What are your problems now? Does that look different a year from now?” It should, and we should be listening and continuing to engage with them and continue to solve those challenges.” 

Online surveys, focus groups, or quick phone calls might be possible vehicles for gathering customer feedback.  

But how often should you be asking your customers about their insurance needs?  

“It’s going to be dependent on your resource capabilities,” said Shufelt. “What you don’t want to do is ask them what all their problems are, and then have no time or resources to go and solve that.”  

Putting together a list of priorities is one way for firms to tackle the most important needs.  

“For example, we will meet with brokers on a monthly basis to hear from them. We’ll have a roadmap that they can view in real-time, at any time, and provide input. They’re part of all of our strategic conversations.” 


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