A new study from the National Association of Professional Insurance Agents (PIA) has found that small-business owners strongly prefer independent insurance agents when it comes to making their insurance selections, but that those agents must continuously demonstrate their value as informed advisors and offer digital benefits.

"Small Business Insurance & The Internet—The Voice of the Commercial Lines Customer," the latest project of PIA and The PIA Partnership, offers independent insurance agents real intelligence on meeting the new challenges posed by online providers and direct writers.

Among the PIA's findings about what small-business owners want:

  • In order to be competitive, independent agents must have a full, credible presence online.

  • Small business owners most value agents with professional, industry-specific knowledge.

  • Most small business owners who shop insurance online still lack confidence in their abilities to make ideal insurance choices, and they want help.

  • Agents need to sell their value. Without more frequent demonstrations of value, alternatives like bypassing the agent by going online will encroach further.

The research showed that even when the insurance process starts online, small-business owners still want to depend on an agent to check and confirm, as well as validate and question assumptions. They overwhelmingly prefer such personal contact throughout the transaction.

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