Independent Agency Staff Morale High During COVID-19, New Survey Finds
Staff Writer | April 30, 2020
More than half of U.S. independent insurance agencies report that staff morale during the novel coronavirus pandemic remains good, although many are concerned about the longer-term impact of policy cancellations, according to a new survey by Channel Harvest Research.
Agents were asked to rate the overall feeling and morale among their work force on a scale of 0 (terrible) to 10 (wonderful). Only 9% reported low morale (0-3 on the scale) and 38% said average (4-6). Some 53% said morale is good (7-10), perhaps a surprising number given declining agency revenues and personal stresses, Channel Harvest noted.
About half of respondents reported agency revenue is unchanged since the crisis started in early March, Channel Harvest found. But some 41% saw a decrease. Ten percent actually posted an increase of revenue during the crisis.
Business interruption coverage has been a top discussion topic for clients, 74% of respondents said. Customers also are asking about auto (50% of agents reported) and workers compensation (38%).
Other coverages noted as top discussion items: commercial property and general liability (15% each) and health and home insurance (14% each). Loss-of-use on rental property also was cited as a top discussion topic by 7% of agents.
Agents were asked to consider their most-effective methods for communicating about COVID-19 related matters with customers and answering policy or service questions. Email dominates, with nearly 90% choosing that as a top method to reach clients. Phone calls were next, at 81%, followed by texting (30%), video chat (14%), and social media (13% each). Lower numbers cited agency U.S. Mail and website content as their top tools.
In open-ended responses, many agents offered an unsettling outlook as the pandemic's economic impact unfolds across the U.S. Here are some related comments:
"It's too soon to see changes in revenue. As the months grind on, I expect sharp declines as the out-of-work shed extra vehicles and optional expenses. Those who still are working are also likely to cut back on optional expenses."
"The worst is probably yet to come for p-c agencies doing commercial insurance."
"Activity has diminished for new policies, many calls about reducing existing policy premiums, slower pay of bills, reducing agency income. I reduced staff pay 25% (lower hours) while working from home."
"New business has come to a stop."
"We have a lot of hospitality business, which has closed down so we are lowering payroll where we can. I expect a huge reduction of income in the next three months."
On the brighter side, many respondents are optimistic about the new way of working from home. A sampling:
"As insurance professionals, we have made careers out of being prepared for the worst-case scenarios. We were already prepared for staff to work remotely long ago, just in case there was ever a disaster that prevented us from accessing our office. Additionally, our flexibility has been a selling point for clients -- they are recognizing and acknowledging that our ability to work from home, provide them the same service level they have come to expect with minimal disruption, and our willingness to make accommodations for them -- all of this is a service level that far exceeds anything they would get from a faceless online insurance provider."
"We already had most of our staff working at least part time from home as a way to reduce our footprint of necessary office space as we grew. So, switching to full-time work from home has not been too much of a stretch."
Each year, Channel Harvest conducts an extensive survey of thousands of independent agents around the U.S., with its 2020 report publishing in early May. The pandemic poll was conducted April 15-16, and some 200 agents responded. For information about the 2020 survey report, contact John Novaria, Channel Harvest's industry relations director, at john@Aartrijk.com.
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