Posted on 20 Aug 2009
A new study by J.D. Power and Associates shows that customer satisfaction with auto insurance providers is up significantly this year, driven primarily by lower premiums that were designed to help ease the sting of a struggling economy.
On the surface, lower premiums would seem like great news for consumers, but take note: Historical data from J.D. Power and Associates indicates that approximately 12 months after the start of the 2001 to 2002 recessionary period in the U.S., overall customer satisfaction with auto insurance companies declined considerably as insurance companies raised rates. As signs of market hardening and rising rates are already beginning to show in the 2009 recessionary period, a similar decline in customer satisfaction could ensue in 2010 and 2011.
The 2009 National Auto Insurance Study measures customer satisfaction with auto insurance companies across five factors. In order of importance, they are:
· Policy offerings
· Billing and payment
According to the study, overall customer satisfaction with auto insurance companies has reached a five-year high in 2009, averaging 801 on a 1,000-point scale—up by 14 points from 2008. More than one-half of the 32 companies ranked in 2009 have improved significantly year over year.
While satisfaction has increased for the four most important factors contributing to overall satisfaction, the most notable increase has occurred in the area of price, which is up by 32 points from 2008. In addition, 42 percent of customers in 2009 report that their premiums decreased—without the customer switching to another insurer—which is nearly twice the rate from 2008.
“If history repeats itself, one could anticipate a notable decline in overall customer satisfaction as a result,” said Jeremy Bowler, senior director of the insurance practice at J.D. Power and Associates. “However, such upheaval in the marketplace creates opportunities for insurers to differentiate themselves and gain a competitive advantage. Most notably, companies that compete less on price and more on quality of services or through affinity relationships may be able to mitigate some of the expected decline in satisfaction.”
Other highlights of the 2009 National Auto Insurance Study include:
· Amica Mutual ranks highest in customer satisfaction with auto insurance companies for a 10th consecutive year, followed by State Farm, Shelter, Auto-Owners, Erie Insurance and COUNTRY, respectively.
· Although not included in the rankings due to the closed natures of their respective memberships, New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance Company (NJM) and USAA also achieve high levels of customer satisfaction.*
· The study finds that important shifts have occurred in the area of non-claims interaction, which is the most important factor driving overall satisfaction.
· Customer satisfaction with Web sites and call centers has improved considerably from 2008.
· While agency insurers perform stronger in the interaction factor than do direct insurers, the advantage of agencies in this regard is slight—an increase of only seven index points.
· One key behavior that can help mitigate dissatisfaction is engaging customers in discussions about rate increases prior to policy renewal time. When customers are notified in advance of rate increases greater than $100, and insurers or agencies offer to discuss coverage or policy options available that may mitigate the price change, customers are significantly more satisfied with their insurer overall.
*USAA is an insurance provider open only to U.S. military personnel and their families. New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance Company is open only to New Jersey Business & Industry Association members, State of New Jersey employees, New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance Company’s previously insured drivers and/or previous/current auto/homeowner policyholders.