Most auto and homeowners who buy insurance through an agent are loyal to their intermediary, who they view as an objective advocate to represent their interests, according to survey results released this week.

At least three-quarters of such respondents said an agent could identify their potential losses to make sure they’re covered, serve as an advocate to get their claims paid quickly and fairly, provide objective advice and explain their coverage more clearly, according to the survey by consultant Deloitte Research, which polled about 1,080 consumers each for auto and home insurance in June and July 2011.

Policyholders using independent agents in particular showed more enthusiasm for the benefits from their agent and “their expectations of what agents can deliver in terms of price and service were the highest recorded in the survey,” according to the results.

But a greater percentage of older consumers buy insurance through an agent compared to their younger counterparts, who switch insurance carriers more frequently.

Survey results showed 65% of the youngest homeowners—25 years and under—purchase coverage directly from an insurer, while 37% of oldest policyholders—51 years and older—do the same. Of the same age groups, 47% of the youngest drivers said they’ll likely renew their policy and almost 70% of the oldest motorists said they’ll stay with their current insurer.

“There definitely is a generation gap here,” says Sam Friedman, insurance leader for Deloitte Research.

He notes 1 in 3 respondents older than 51 said they would never buy insurance without an agent, while 1 in 5 policyholders between 35 and 50 and 1 in 10 consumers between 18 and 34 said the same.

With older consumers showing loyalty to their agent who they’ve worked with over time, there’s an opportunity to “capture the business and maintain the loyalty of drivers and homeowners when they are young,” the study suggests.

“The people [who] work with independent agents tend to stay with them. It’s a loyal group,” Freidman says.

The survey also showed that younger auto and homeowners want insurers to communicate with them in different ways, including through mobile applications and online services. About half of auto and home respondents younger than 35 said multiple channels of communication were influential in their decision to change carriers.

“Insurance agents and their carriers are going to have to continually upgrade the capabilities they offer in order to stay competitive,” Friedman says. “If they don’t, someone else will take the business away from them.”

But the good news, he adds, is that “all this new technology doesn’t mean that people don’t need service or don’t need advice. It doesn’t mean that they don’t need a third party.

The Turner Agency in Greenville, S.C., shares educational insurance information by blogging and using social media, including Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, as a way to reach a younger demographic, says marketing director Julie Turner, who handles social media and advertising for the independent agency celebrating 50 years of business.

Content is relevant to the audience and time of year, such as information about holiday safety, social host liability, expensive gifts and newborns, she says, noting the agency often uses consumer stories from Trusted Choice®. The 18-person agency has also shared insurance information about golf carts, which are popular in its community.

Meanwhile, the agency has also reached out to longtime clients to share educational insurance information for their children, who were going to college or buying their first car or house.

“We’re really just trying to position ourselves as being the education expert and just trying to find that one thing that might cause [a person to say], ‘Hmm, I may not have thought about that,’” Turner says.

By using educational content, the agency also wants to consumers to know that “we want to be here for them when they have questions,” she adds.

“This generation is by and large an educated group, and I do think that they appreciate value when they can see the difference,” she says.

The agency also recently launched a mobile app, which includes capabilities such as requesting a quote, reporting a claim, paying a bill and locating nearby services such as a towing company, gas station or hospital, Turner says.

While expanding communication options, the agency strives to interact with customers in the way they prefer, which can range from mail to email to text messaging, she says.

“We’re moving at warp speed now and it’s not going to turn around so we’ve got to adapt,” she says. “At the same point, we’re very sensitive to our longtime consumers and we still mail letters and do the things that are important to them.”

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Goff, Victoria. “Loyalty to Independent Agents Remains Strong, Survey Says.”Www.IAMagazine.com. IA Magazine, 15 Mar. 2012. Web. 09 Apr. 2012. <http://www.iamagazine.com/NewsViews/2012/March_15/P-C-Trends3.aspx>.