The Auto Insurance Experience: Millennials Still Need You

In auto insurance interactions, millennial satisfaction is up 19 points with the website experience and 24 points with the assisted online experience—but most significantly with the agent experience at 29 points, according to the J.D. Power 2015 U.S. Auto Insurance Study.

The study finds that although auto insurance satisfaction levels among Gen Y remains the lowest of any generation, both overall satisfaction and interaction satisfaction among millennial customers has increased by the largest margin since 2014 when compared to other age groups.

Measuring customer satisfaction based on interaction, price, policy offerings, billing/payment and claims, the study finds that on a 1,000-point scale, overall auto insurance satisfaction is up 21 index points for Gen Y, 6 for Gen X and 4 for boomers, while satisfaction among pre-boomers declined 3 points. Meanwhile, interaction satisfaction specifically is up 20 points for Gen Y.

“Generally, millennial satisfaction levels suggest that they’re a little bit more discerning when they come to services,” explains Valerie Monet, director of the insurance practice at J.D. Power. “When we look at what’s driving the improvement, it’s actually the non-claim interactions customers have with their insurers.”

And Gen Y’s preferences for whether those interactions occur via the Web, phone or in person might surprise you.

“We’ve seen a slight increase related to some of the online digital interactions they have and an increase in the amount of customers that can completely resolve their issue online,” Monet says. “But that’s only up two percentage points to 81% in 2015, and that percentage change is actually comparable across all the generational groups.”

Where You Come In

What does that mean for agents? “The increase in satisfaction can’t solely be attributed to some of these advances we’ve seen in online servicing,” Monet explains. “Despite Gen Y’s tendency and willingness to go online, the consultation they receive from agents is still very important. Relatively few insurers, direct or indirect, have websites that are advanced enough to conduct every task that someone could possibly need to do exclusively online.”

And even when they do, “customers don’t always want to interact that way,” Monet points out. “Gen Y is no exception—we see that in their satisfaction levels when it comes to the agent experience and the importance of the agent experience in their total satisfaction with the insurer.”

In fact, the study finds that 25% of Gen Y customers would rather talk to someone in person or over the phone to discuss price changes, and 23% prefer in-person or phone interactions over the website channel when they have questions about their policy coverage. By contrast, Monet says, millennials might prefer self-service for things like one-time payments or ID card downloads.

“There will always be certain things that technology can’t easily support, and there will always be other more complex tasks that people want to talk to a person about, whether they’re calling them over the phone or speaking to their local agent in person,” Monet says. “Online functionality won’t make the agent or the call center experience obsolete, but what it’s going to do is change how people want to interact with their insurer.”

Monet says people could start going online to solve problems their agent used to handle—“which will change what the agent has to focus on,” she says. “It’s going to be a matter of maximizing the channel interactions. The agent’s largest job is going to become educating customers and shoppers about which channel is best suited for each task. Then, the agent will be handling the most complex tasks.”

The Website Experience

Although it’s improving, website experience satisfaction receives the lowest average score among all generations. Monet says that while insurers like Progressive, Geico and USAA have made significant advances in the website experience, exclusive website utilization is low—a phrase that refers to customers who use only online interaction channels rather than phone or in-person conversations to solve their insurance needs.

According to the study, only 11% of millennials used only online resources in their most recent auto insurance experience, and the percentages are even lower among other generational groups.

“There’s still a long road ahead when it comes to moving to a more exclusive website model,” Monet says. Although those numbers have been steadily growing, “we’re just not in a spot where customers can exclusively do everything online.”

But that doesn’t mean millennials wouldn’t like the option. According to Monet, when asked whether they would like to interact exclusively through a website, 27% say they would—compared to just 21% back in 2011. “What the findings are suggesting is that there are either limitations in awareness—customers are not aware of what they can do online yet—or the functionality of the site itself is hindering their ability to do what they need,” Monet says.

And it’s important to note that millennial satisfaction levels are just starting to improve, Monet notes—suggesting two possible trends: Either “some insurers are getting better at meeting Gen Y expectations,” or millennials have “become better educated about the products and services available as they’ve matured,” she says. “With greater understanding comes higher satisfaction.”

Jacquelyn Connelly is IA senior editor.