Small commercial insurers aren't giving their client base what they want -- a simple and easy purchase experience. Whether online or through an agent, business owners are left confused, frustrated and having to seek extra advice before they can find suitable coverage, according to new Accenture research.

"Small businesses are extremely frustrated with the process of commercial insurance, whether they purchase directly or through an agent," the report concludes. "Many report that they do not trust the sales process or fear that they are inadequately covered by the policies they eventually buy."

Among the report's findings:

  • "Overwhelming," "confusing" and "not fun" were words business owners used to describe pursuing the purchase of commercial insurance for the first time. They were confused about how insurers collect data, insurance industry language and how much coverage they actually needed. Businesses said they wanted the quoting process to be faster and simpler than it is.

  • Business owners may start pursuing the direct/online purchase of insurance, but they often feel overwhelmed by the complexity of it all and can't find what they need. They end up needing more time and consultation with others.

  • Business owners are jaded about sales pitches from commercial or personal insurers, leaving them cynical and on a quest to find unbiased advice from somewhere else before they make a purchase.

  • Business owners complain that commercial insurance policies aren't flexible, wishing instead that they could find policies that adjust to their needs over time.


The study argues that carriers should streamline information small business owners need to receive quotes or policy information; use artificial intelligence to update policies and improve coverage; and rely on clear, non-jargon language so people who don't know insurance insider language can pursue buying a policy easily.'

There's plenty of room for improvement. As Accenture noted, the small commercial insurance market has no single carrier with more than a 4 percent market share. Also, more than 60 percent of small businesses in the United States will be owned by millennials and Gen Xers by 2020, according to data cited by Accenture, and those demographics prefer "digital purchases and self-service to face-to-face" interactions or the telephone. That means carriers will win and stand out if they revamp their buying process for small commercial business customers in a way that addresses their concerns and preferences, Accenture said.

"Carriers that want to win need to leverage design thinking co-creation with customers, imagination and experiential research capabilities to create and rapidly refine their target segments, channels and touch points," Accenture said in its study.

Accenture, working with the consulting company Fjord, based its conclusions on interviews with 12 small business organizations centered around identifying past and future insurance needs. They also held a business owner workshop with seven small business organizations to gauge participants' perspective on buying insurance digitally and what carriers needed to do to boost business owners' willingness to buy insurance directly. The report is based on participation from 19 total business owners, and it also involved "ethnographic research," where researchers observe or interact with study participants in their real-life environment. Interviews and the workshop took place in the U.S. in July 2018.

The Accenture study is titled "Winning the Hearts and Minds of Small Business Insurance Buyers."