An exclusive article in Insurance Journal this week says that Google is shutting down its Google Compare website which sold auto insurance online. Google Compare is Google’s first foray into online disruption of personal insurance and has partnered with online insurance vendor Coverhound, and others, to sell insurance online.
While Google itself hasn’t made a formal announcement (which is expected the first week of March. according to Google partners) it has been confirmed by the Insurance Journal in conversations with several Google strategic partners. One of those partners said Google was “going dark” and retooling the business, according to the Insurance Journal.
What does this mean for insurance agents?
My opinion is that it only means a temporary respite for agents in the serious challenges they face from online sellers, including Google. Google’s business model is to try many things knowing they will learn even if they fail and then often to try again. My guess is that they will be back with a better model, and given the speed of technological innovation, they’ll be back sooner rather than later.
I also think it’s clear that Google’s temporary exit isn’t slowing others. Coverhound, for example, is moving ahead with its plans. It’s clear that online sales of insurance will continue and online vendors will continue to gain market share. Just last month, W.R. Berkley Corp. CEO William R. Berkley said every agent who sells personal auto coverage should “be afraid, be very afraid,” according to the Insurance Journal article.
I don’t think OAA agents need to be afraid, however; I just think they need to be prepared.
As I’ve counseled many times, the unique value of the local agent relies in relationships, not just price and choice. Now is the time to prepare for market changes by reinforcing that value proposition. Here are some practical ways to do that:
Create 24/7 service options for customers using carrier, automation vendor and mobile technology.
Find ways to allow customers to serve themselves using these same technologies.
Communicate regularly (at least monthly) with customers through a variety of channels including text, social media and the “dinosaurs” of email and telephone.
Use consultation, along with choice, to create value for customers in the shopping experience instead of just trying to be the cheapest provider (that is a losing proposition).
Google has thrown in the towel, but hasn’t waived the white flag. And, there are lots of others joining the fray. Use this temporary respite to prepare and by doing so guarantee the future success of your agency!