(Plymouth Rock in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Photo credit: John O’Neill.)
Auto insurer Plymouth Rock Assurance (Boston) has introduced Prime, a new insurance product that integrates independent agents into online auto insurance purchasing and policy management processes. The carrier has launched Prime for Massachusetts and will launch in the other states it does business in—Connecticut and New Hampshire—later this year.
Plymouth Rock characterizes Prime as solving the problem of consumers having to choose between either buying online or visiting an agent. By integrating independent agents into the process, buyers retain both the convenience of the Internet and the personalized counsel of a knowledgeable insurance professional, according to the carrier.
“Plymouth Rock is changing the auto insurance experience for consumers,” comments Chris Olie, president and CEO, Plymouth Rock Assurance. “We’ve always valued the unique benefits independent agents provide to shoppers through their local knowledge and by representing multiple carriers. As a company, we’ve invested heavily in our online capabilities to make it easy for consumers to buy and manage their policies online. With Prime, we’ve combined both experiences to give insurance buyers the best possible way to shop, buy and manage. It’s simple one-stop shopping backed by friendly, local, and knowledgeable service and advice.”
Consumers and Agents Benefit
From the consumer perspective, the process begins by accessing quoting through the Plymouth Rock website. Once a policy is purchased, a local independent agent is assigned to provide guidance and ongoing expertise as the customer’s insurance needs change over time. A consumer who completes an online quote and decides not to purchase a policy has the option to be contacted by a local independent. The agent can then offer multiple insurance options from different carriers. Consumers using the process are thus saved the trouble of seeking quotes from multiple websites or getting advice about their New England insurance policies from representatives without regional expertise.
Independent agents benefit from Prime by enjoying improved online capabilities in order to compete with national direct sellers—which Plymouth Rock notes is a traditional challenge for small, local businesses. The carrier asserts that, in addition to connecting agents to online insurance shoppers, Prime also improves the way agencies market and sell in an online world, further reinforcing their unique value proposition.
Combining Convenience and Consultation
“The Prime approach seems to address a need identified in past Celent research on insurance consumers’ buying preferences—they want to be able to access the purchasing process as they do with other products—anywhere, anytime, on their own—but they also express the desire for qualified consultation on occasion,” comments Michael Fitzgerald, an analyst with Celent (Boston). “Prime appears to blend what used to be a binary choice that many consumers do not want to be forced to make.”
Plymouth Rock’s Prime offering is in line with the industry trend toward a more omni-channel experience that allows customers to choose channels and change them at their direction, observes Rob McIsaac, senior VP of Research, Novarica (Boston). “The idea of customers doing research on their own before executing financial transactions is a reality of normal business operations today,” he notes. “Some carriers with more captive distribution systems have already moved to combine the ability for customers to start transactions online then request the introduction of a human resource into the process at the appropriate point, as decided by that customer.”
The model is agreeable to customers and allows carriers to mitigate concerns about disintermediating traditional producers, McIsaac adds. “This announcement from Plymouth Rock looks to be a way of expanding that model to afford independent agents an opportunity to similarly participate in such a multi-channeled world,” he says. “For independent producers, as demographic changes and competitive forces transform traditional markets, finding ways to integrate into the revised business model may be key to future success.”