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Risk management, timely claims reporting paramount to keep businesses running smoothly

Nationwide’s survey also finds business owners could be missing opportunities to proactively protect their businesses against disruptions

Columbus, OH – Global supply chain issues and widespread labor shortages have caused added stress to businesses across the nation as they work to keep serving customers. However, many business owners may be missing opportunities to prevent costly disruptions from further impacting their operations with easy-to-implement risk management practices, according to Nationwide’s latest Agency Forward survey.

The survey highlighted three key themes for agents to prioritize as they engage with clients for 2022 planning:

  1. Business owners prioritize speed, ease and industry knowledge from their agents and carriers.
  2. Advanced digital tools are simplifying claims.
  3. Proactive planning can prevent disruptions.

“While supply chain and workforce challenges will continue for the foreseeable future, agents can help clients now by protecting any new or evolving operations they may have in place, assisting with business planning for future disruptions, and leveraging carrier-supplied risk management resources to help prevent further costly interruptions,” said Peter McMurtrie, president of P&C Commercial Lines at Nationwide. 

Business owners prioritize speed, ease and industry knowledge from their agents and carriers
Though 85% of the anonymous business owners surveyed who filed a claim in the past 12 months report being satisfied with their experience, some owners still struggle with navigating the claims process with their carriers. A quarter were dissatisfied with their claims experience saying it was difficult (25%) or slow (24%), while another 1-in-5 say it was challenging to track the progress of their claim (22%) or that their insurance agent wasn’t helpful (21%).

When it comes to filing a claim, both small and large businesses prioritize speed, ease, and industry expertise. Their top priorities include:

  1. Having the claim handled quickly (68% small owners, 37% middle market owners)
  2. Industry knowledgeable agent or claims representatives (46% small owners, 37% middle market owners)
  3. Access to agent or claims representative by phone (small owners 48%, middle market owners 32%)

Insurers like Nationwide have reduced average claim cycle times for business owners with easy filing online or by phone and dedicated claims experts with deep knowledge in clients’ industries and the challenges they face. Still, carriers have opportunities to provide further educational materials for agents and customers as 42% of agents would like more resources to help their clients better understand the claims process.

Advanced digital tools are simplifying claims
While many business owners still want an agent on hand to help them through the claims process – about half cite their agent’s help as a top reason for their claim’s satisfaction – increasing speed and effectiveness is key to providing them a positive experience. Agents (~85%) reported being twice as likely as their business owner customers (37%) to believe the claims process is fast and easy.

Carriers are using new tools to simplify the claims process for business owners and their agents. Nationwide customers have access to report claims 24/7 online, receive payments digitally or by mail, and utilize solutions like the Nurse Triage Hotline to get qualified medical professional advice after an accident and help determine an effective course of action.

“The survey showed agents feel confident talking clients through filing and tracking claims and have opportunities to build deeper client relationships when they’re prepared to deliver that counsel to business owners in the moment,” said McMurtrie. “Agents who take the time to fully understand clients’ needs and preferences, as well as the carrier-offered claims solutions to address them, will benefit from heightened confidence and smoother experiences for their customers.”

Proactive planning can prevent disruptions
Across the board, business owners are most concerned about the impact employee injuries, cyberattacks, pandemics and natural disasters could have on their companies. Depending on the business size, however, owners’ risk management opinions and actions greatly differ – creating an opportunity for agents to engage with their clients to ensure proper planning.

While nearly 80% of small business owners say risk management is a high priority for their company, more than a quarter (27%) say they have no risk management practices in place at all. Conversely, almost all middle-market business owners (96%) say they prioritize risk management at their business and have practices in place to mitigate risks.

Risk management services business owners are most commonly utilizing include:

  1. In-person/on-site services – 33% small business owners, 51% middle market business owners
  2. Safety programs/development and training guidelines – 25% small business owners, 54% middle market business owners
  3. Online resources, including safety videos and documents – 29% small business owners, 51% middle market business owners
  4. Digital risk management tools – 26% small business owners, 42% middle market business owners
  5. Virtual/teleconference services – 20% small business owners, 40% middle market business owners

Agents can help business owners mitigate risk
With a lot at stake, it’s important for agents to talk to commercial customers, particularly small business owners, about the claims process and how risk management strategies can serve as crucial safeguards for their business, employees’ safety, and bottom line.

Three points to emphasize with commercial clients leading into 2022 include:

1. Timely claims reporting is critical to getting your company back to work quickly. On average, commercial lines claims are reported 20 days after the event of loss, adding as much as 15% to the life cycle of their claim.

2. Many business disruptions are preventable. Taking time to ensure proper housekeeping, maintenance and business continuity planning is in place can reduce costly disturbances and decrease recovery time if one happens.

3. With the average cost of a fleet accident at approximately $70,000 and auto accidents being the leading cause of work-related fatalities in the U.S.1, for many organizations, their fleet operations pose their greatest liability and workers’ compensation risk. It is important that organizations establish a formal fleet safety program to protect employees and reduce accident risk.

 “As 2021 comes to a close and business owners report a high level of satisfaction with their agents, independent agents have opportunities during their annual check-ins to open dialogue with clients around risk management and in-person or virtual support available to them, serving as a valuable partner to prepare them for the future,” added McMurtrie.  

Nationwide’s ongoing Agency Forward research series works to track industry trends by surveying independent insurance agents, various business owners, and consumers. Nationwide commissioned Edelman Data & Intelligence to conduct a 20-minute quantitative online survey among a sample of 2,400 U.S. independent insurance agents, small business owners, middle-market business owners, African American business owners and Hispanic business owners between June 22 – July 7, 2021, to gauge business owners’ experiences when filing a claim, understand their priorities when it comes to the insurance claims process, explore their perceptions of risk management for their organization and the steps they’re taking, and understand the challenges facing agents and business owners in today’s environment. As a member in good standing with The Insights Association as well as ESOMAR Edelman Data and Intelligence conducts all research in accordance with local, national and international laws as well as in line with all Market Research Standards and Guidelines.

1 Bureau of Labor Statistics [2018]. Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, 2017

About Nationwide

Nationwide, a Fortune 100 company based in Columbus, Ohio, is one of the largest and strongest diversified insurance and financial services organizations in the United States. Nationwide is rated A+ by both A.M. Best and Standard & Poor’s. An industry leader in driving customer-focused innovation, Nationwide provides a full range of insurance and financial services products including auto, business, homeowners, farm and life insurance; public and private sector retirement plans, annuities and mutual funds; excess & surplus, specialty and surety; pet, motorcycle and boat insurance. For more information, visit www.nationwide.com. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.