Auto customers say it is easier to service a policy than shop for one on a carrier website, a new J.D. Power and Associates study shows. But those who are shopping are more serious than ever.
In an insurance carrier website study that examines the functional aspects of the carriers’ websites rather than aesthetics, J.D. Power found that “requesting a quote” and “finding policy information” are the two most difficult tasks cited by consumers. But those two things are what they want to do most—more than half of consumers research policies online first, and many more seek quotes.
Jeremy Bowler, senior director of the global insurance practice at J.D. Power and Associates, says agents need to up their response time to online leads, given overall consumer frustration with ease of getting a quote.
“If someone calls office and leaves a number, it’s accepted to get back to me at some point in the day,” Bowler says. “If you wait two or three hours via web inquiry, you have probably missed that customer.”
Bowler noted that agents often complain about the quality of internet leads.
“One of the first questions I ask is, ‘Who responded—and how quickly?’” he says. “If you are waiting hours, then Geico stole the business from under your nose. They don’t let a lead lie fallow for more than a few minutes. This is a tough challenge for agents—how do you drop everything and call a customer pronto? But this is a challenge agents have to overcome. Responsiveness has a profound impact on the performance of those leads.”
And agents should expect to see the quality of the leads they receive to improve, based on overall market trends.
While the percentage of auto insurance shoppers has reached a six-year low, the percentage of those shoppers who select a new insurer is at a six-year high, according to another recent J.D. Power Study. Among the 23% of customers who shopped auto insurance in the last year, 45% ultimately switched insurers—the highest rate since the study first began measuring customer retention in 2008.
“Customers did a thorough job of shopping in 2010-2011, and they have exhausted the savings potential in the market, which is why those who are shopping has hit a low,” Bowler says.
While fewer leads might be showing up at the front door, agents should see the quality of those leads— measured by a customer’s willingness to switch—improving.
“If as an agent, I’m seeing fewer leads but closing more, that makes sense,” Bowler says. “But if I’m not seeing as many leads and not closing as many as I used to, then I should be concerned. That suggests I’m not relating to shoppers.”
The increase of quality of leads is vitally important to an agent because in general, agents are better at closing all types of leads versus call centers and websites, Bowler says. So if the overall market lead quality is improving, agents should be reaping the benefits.
“We have tracked the success of agents versus call centers versus company websites in closing deals,” Bowler says. “Even the best company is only closing 16% of Web leads, and at worst, only closing 1-2%. Agents tend to close 30-40% of all business they quote.”
Katie Butler is IA editor in chief.