Insurers who disappoint buyers during the shopping and sales process run the risk of losing sales from new and existing customers.
Buyers who purchase their auto insurance policies through local agents give higher average satisfaction scores compared with those who purchase policies from call center representatives or via Internet channels, a new study indicates.
“Buyers who use insurance agents are also more likely to purchase bundled auto and homeowner insurance policies,” said Jeremy Bowler, senior director of the insurance practice at J.D. Power and Associates, who conducted the recent “J.D. Power and Associates 2008 Insurance New Buyer Study.”
“Despite this trend, insurance providers are steadily enhancing their Web sites capabilities, and shopping through a direct channel certainly has its benefits for prospective buyers, as most cite the ease of conducting business as a primary reason for shopping and purchasing direct,” Bowler added. “As direct channels are steadily enhanced, the challenge for insurers is to accommodate buyers seeking more complex insurance bundles in order to potentially increase close rates via the Web.”
The study examined purchasing behaviors and overall satisfaction of buyers who shop for a new auto insurer. Three factors were measured to determine satisfaction: distribution channel (50 percent), price (29 percent) and policy offerings (21 percent).
“The shopping experience is the first opportunity that an insurer has to meet or exceed the expectations of prospective buyers,” Bowler said. “The growing convenience of obtaining quotes, particularly online, makes shopping and switching increasingly simple. As a result, insurers who disappoint buyers during the shopping and sales process run the risk of losing sales from potential new customers and of losing renewals from existing customers.”
The study found that while 55 percent of all new auto insurance sales are handled by local agents, the percentage of buyers shopping and closing via direct channels – which includes insurer Web sites and call centers – has increased from the 2007 study.
In 2008, 44 percent of buyers who bought auto insurance from a new insurer purchased directly from the insurer, rather than through an agent – an increase of 3 percentage points from 2007. Additionally, among buyers who changed their shopping channel, more buyers changed to direct purchasing methods (22 percent) compared with those who switched to using an agent (15 percent).