person writing in a book on a kitchen table.
person writing in a book on a kitchen table.

Providing value to small business owners

The evolution of small business insurance might make it easier for independent business owners to research and find solutions, but it doesn’t mean they want to be left to their own devices. “There’s an assumption that it’s becoming a commodity, and that customers just want to go online and get a quote,” says Ilda Dinis, our Vice President of Customer Experience & Marketing. The truth? “Small business owners value the advice that brokers provide,” she says. How can brokers be sure they’re hitting all the marks? Here, Dinis highlights common gaps in small business service, along with ways to meet them head on.

Small business customers want to ensure that they have the right coverage and limits. What are some common concerns?

Understanding of insurance outside the industry is incredibly murky, so small business customers want to feel confident that they have the right coverage to protect their business. Before the Internet, customers used to come to brokers for information. Today, everyone’s going online first when looking for a supplier. Now they’re coming in with a lot of information, but don’t know what to do with it. They need their broker to boil it down and tell them what’s right for their business.

What coverage elements do they often overlook?

We conducted research with small business customers last year and found that many of them don’t bother with business insurance at all. About half don’t have insurance because they think it’s too expensive, or if they’re running a home-based business, they think they’re covered under their homeowner policies. There’s a huge opportunity for brokers to educate small business owners not only on the right coverages, but on the importance of having those coverages. They can also dispel some of the myths—for example, small business owners often use their home or auto insurance as a barometer for what a business policy will cost, but, quite often, it’s just a few hundred dollars a year.

How can brokers best address small business customer concerns on pricing and coverage clarity?

There’s a myth that small business customers are always looking for the cheapest insurance. The reality is that they’re looking for the best coverage they can afford. That’s a really important distinction for brokers.

The clarity piece is also huge. It’s really about providing education to customers. That can start through great content on the broker’s website—so when customers are researching, they’ll find that information and know exactly what they need, regardless of what business they’re in. Providing those insights through various platforms is a huge way brokers can help.

When it comes to limits, brokers can also flex their muscles and their value with small business owners. Some customers actually have too much coverage and a broker can guide them to ensure that they  have the coverage and limits that are associated with the risks to  their business.

What about customers with little time for insurance education?

Small business owners wear every hat when it comes to running their business—they’re chief financial officer, chief marketing officer, chief everything officer. They don’t have a lot of time, so make it easy for them and get back to them on their own terms. They want the option to communicate with service providers via text, phone and email. Don’t force a face-to-face meeting if they don’t have time for one—do it by phone or by email instead. Look for different ways technology can help you deliver the broker value proposition to these customers.

What other steps can brokers take to ensure that customers are not just covered, but are an active partner in risk efforts?

There’s an opportunity to help mitigate common risks associated with their industry through ongoing education and communication. I think there’s a great opportunity for brokers to talk with customers about loss prevention using case studies and testimonials. There’s also a huge opportunity to connect with customers outside of the renewal process by sharing information on industry trends and insights on what’s coming down the pipeline.

What tools can they offer small business owners, beyond their own advice?

Beyond the advice they offer on coverage, they can connect customers to loss prevention tools and help keep them informed about industry and regulatory changes. A claim can shut a small business customer down for a while so there’s an opportunity for brokers to point them to resources like Northbridge Insurance’s Risk Management Assist™ service,  which provides guidance to help small business customers avoid potential losses.*

A lot of brokers are also starting to hook small business customers during the research process. It would be interesting for them to look at how technology can help by making industry-specific information available on their website, or having online tools that educate and guide customers through coverage options available.

Anything else to keep in mind when approaching small business customers?

Small business owners often feel like they’re an afterthought, and that suppliers and vendors get back to them after dealing with larger customers. They’re incredibly proud of their role in the Canadian economy and want suppliers to understand and respect that. There are over two million small businesses in Canada, and they make up over 95 per cent of all businesses. These owners want to work with brokers who treat them like true partners and who will help them make the right choices for their business.

This interview originally appeared in the October issue of CI Top Broker Magazine.

* Services provided by our Risk Services specialists and are intended to augment internal safety, compliance and risk management practices, and are not a substitute for professional advice.  Services are not an insurance policy or legal advice. Not all policies are eligible, contact us for details.

This blog is provided for information only and is not a substitute for professional advice. We make no representations or warranties regarding the accuracy or completeness of the information and will not be responsible for any loss arising out of reliance on the information.

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