Subscribe to glassBYTEs!

Consumers Prefer Agencies to Call Centers, According to Recent J.D. Powers Study

Insurance customers who interact with a local agency tend to be more satisfied than customers who interact with their insurer's call center, according to the recently released J.D. Power and Associates 2008 Insurance Customer Contact StudySM.

The study found that more than 75 percent of personal auto and home insurance customers interacted with their insurer either through an agency, call center or website during the past 12 months. Among insurance customers who interact with a local agency, satisfaction averaged 884 points on a 1,000-point scale, compared with 824 points among those who interact with their insurers' call centers.

J.D. Powers reports that while 78 percent of insurance customers are serviced through agencies, only 30 percent interact exclusively with their agencies, and slightly more than one-half of all customers report using their insurers' call centers or websites, and 64 percent use a combination of agencies, call centers and the Internet interact with their insurers throughout the year.

"Having a streamlined contact process is most ideal for customers, and in particular, those interacting with their insurer's call center often have higher expectations than those interacting with an agency," says Jeremy Bowler, senior director of the insurance practice at J.D. Power and Associates. "For instance, call center customers are most satisfied when their issues are resolved the same day they contact their insurer, while agencies can take slightly longer before customers become less satisfied. Similarly, customers expect an agent to retrieve their information in two minutes or less, while call center representatives have only one minute before satisfaction declines drastically."

The study also found that agent-served customers tend to be more loyal to their agents than they are to their insurers. Among customers who perceive their agents to be independent, 44 percent reported that they "definitely will" renew with their insurers, while 60 percent say they "definitely will" continue doing business with their agencies. Only 7 percent of customers indicated they "definitely will not" switch insurers if their agent recommended another company.

The study also reveals the following insurance customer behavior patterns:

  • One-fourth of a customer's overall impression of their agent, agency staff, or call center representative is driven by their courtesy and friendliness.
  • Two in five customers meet with their agent in person, and most visit their agent without a scheduled appointment.
  • Time is critical in satisfying call center customers, as key satisfaction drivers include not being placed on hold, connecting to a call center representative within two minutes and accessing account information within one minute.

The 2008 Insurance Customer Contact Study is based on responses from 11,828 auto and home insurance customers who interacted with their current insurers within the past 12 months. The online study was conducted in June 2008.

Need more info and analysis about the issues?
CLICK HERE to subscribe to AGRR magazine.