The buzz with social media continues to grow louder in the business and trade press. But a big question that remains is: How will this impact Canadian insurance generally and insurance distribution specifically. There is some evidence that while insurance brokers are not far along the adoption path, a breakthrough may be in sight as some Canadian leaders are suggesting the technology is a key element in addressing a significant problem facing the channel.
Painfully little actual measurement of social media utilization within the insurance industry has been published. However, there was a recent survey of Independent Agents in the US by the networking and services provider, IVANS which provided some data. Key findings were:
- 52% of Agents don’t use social media now
- 38% of agents have no plans to use social media.
- 27%of agents say they use it for marketing purposes and 14 percent use it to provide enhanced customer service.
Certainly not a ringing endorsement for the technologies from the agent force.
However, Canadian brokers are being told (if they didn’t already know) that their market share is eroding and that a new breed of customer is emerging which is demanding a new type of sales and service orientation.
At the Ontario Young Brokers Conference (as reported by CITopBroker Magazine), Randy Carroll, President of the Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario (IBAO) and Bryan Yetman, IBAO Chairman, provided statistics on the gradual, but consistent, erosion of brokers’ market share to the attendees.
Carroll emphasized changing consumer attitudes as prime drivers: “Many consumers don’t care if you’re an advocate or on their side,” said Carroll. “We need to transition brokerages to do business how [consumers] want [us to]. We need to open a door so consumers that don’t deal with you today do so in the future.”
Yetman concurred, asking rhetorically: if the majority of brokers shopped online, why would their customers be any different. Yetman stressed that Brokers that don’t embrace technology lose business. He encouraged brokers to actively embrace Social Media tools for both marketing an customer service.
IVANS provided similar commentary. Its report concludes with respect to Social Media: “Agents who actively engage customers in the social media space are more likely to develop positive customer relationships that can lead to referrals. In addition, agent and carriers can both leverage the customer feedback they gain through these conversations to improve their products and services.”
Perhaps these data and exhortations will be the push needed to establish Social Media within the broker community. And where brokers go, insurers are fast followers.