But here’s the real question: Out of the thousands of
U.S.-based carriers writing average personal and small commercial lines, how many of those does the average agency
really need to demonstrate options in choice, coverage and
terms to the vast majority of personal and small-commercial
lines customers? Four or five trusted relationships, max?
The “generalist” carriers seem to be the most inconsistent — the number-one frustration point for agencies. Niche
players seem to do well. The same goes for agencies — the
ones that specialize are more profitable and grow faster.
Niches mean more profit. Where can you create more
niches, even with standard personal lines? Your employees
will be happier and more confident, because they can write
more business more accurately and in less time. This also
may explain why three out of four agencies rely on market
access providers like managing general agents and wholesale brokers, which are niche program players. (And a
fast-growing segment are joining clusters and aggregators,
because they often can’t leverage the carrier relationships
Smart agencies watch their numbers carefully when it
comes to carrier relationships. They don’t take the partnerships for granted, and they’re not complacent about them.
They’re proactive about sharing information (see sidebar).
They’re involved in their carrier-agency councils for strategy, technology and service. They pilot new technology with
carriers. (Speaking of which, what are your carriers doing
there to innovate? If they have the same old claims-handling
system from the 1980s, because Steve in IT won’t fix it, then
it’s time to move on.)
Want to make decisions about company appointments that
are likely to be embraced by your entire team? Ask the staff
to rate each carrier via a confidential online survey or a
paper ballot. Anyone with knowledge of the company’s
performance week-to-week should be eligible to vote.
The ratings should be on a scale 0 (absolutely sucks)
to 10 (rock solid), based on each of these factors found as
important to agents in the 2018 Channel Harvest Research
study ( www.channelharvest.com):
Claims service quality
Technology “ease of doing business”
Training and education
Overall “feeling” that it’s a productive, two-way
Agency compensation (CSRs may not care as much)
The “PITA” factor (CSRs will love this one)
When you have the scores, have a meeting and announce
the, ahem, winners and losers.
If you decide to leave a carrier, can your other markets
pick up that business for you? If so, can you as the principal
make the tough decision?
Sometimes the decision to leave a carrier is also a
decision to leave a product line entirely. That way, you can
get the staff aligned to pursue lines of business that are
more profitable, growing and more enjoyable for the staff
Take an honest, critical look at your carrier relation-ships. What’s working? What is not working?
Life is short. Prune the rose bush: The entire plant will
Peter van Aartrijk ( peter@Aartrijk.com) has worked on marketing challenges for independent agents, brokers and carriers for nearly 40 years.
He is co-author of a new book, "The Powers: 10 Factors for Building an
Exponentially More Powerful Brand," available on Amazon.
AGENT & BROKER
Turning the Tables
Those familiar visits from carrier field representatives serve a purpose, sure. But maybe
your agency would benefit from another kind of visit: one where you rent a conference
room and invite all the reps to your meeting. At this presentation, you can outline:
• Where you are going as a firm;
• How you will maintain relevance in the future;
• What your brand and culture are all about;
• What you’re doing to improve the customer experience;
• Niches you intend to expand or explore;
• New technology you’re implementing; and
• Your growth plans and the sort of carrier relationships you’ll need to support that growth.
In this environment and presentation, you maintain control over the relationships.