Canadian Underwriter

Use of digital channels increasing, but technology can’t fully replace human connections during auto claims process: J.D. Power U.S. study

October 27, 2016   by Canadian Underwriter

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Millenials’ customer satisfaction with the auto insurance process in the United States, while still the lowest among all generations, is improving and carrying the rest of the industry with it, according to the J.D. Power 2016 U.S. Auto Claims Satisfaction Study.

Using all the latest techThe study found that overall satisfaction among Millenials, or Gen Y (those born between 1977 and 1994), averaged 844 on a 1,000-point scale in 2016, up from 827 in 2015. The 17-point increase among Gen Y customers helped lift the overall industry average to 860, a modest 3-point boost, J.D. Power said in a press release on Tuesday.

The study is based on responses from 12,228 auto insurance customers who settled a claim within the past six months prior to taking the survey. The study excludes claimants whose vehicle incurred only glass/windshield damage or was stolen, or who only filed a roadside assistance claim. It measured customer satisfaction with their most recent auto collision claim. Depending on the complexity of the claim, claimants may experience some or all of the following areas: first notice of loss; service interaction; appraisal; repair process; rental experience; and settlement.

Pre-Boomers (born before 1946) have the highest satisfaction at 912, followed by Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) at 878 and Gen X (born between 1965 and 1976) at 847. Gen X is the only generation to experience a decline in satisfaction from a year ago, dropping eight points, the release said.

Gen Y is the largest generational group of auto insurance claimants at 40%, up from 33% in 2015. Gen X remains stable at 20%, while the share of Boomers and Pre-Boomers is shrinking, J.D. Power reported. “Gen Y is a large and influential segment of the claims market, so it’s encouraging to see that insurance providers continue to focus on improving this generation’s satisfaction,” said Mark Garrett, director of insurance industry analytics at J.D. Power.

Driving the increase in satisfaction overall, and specifically among Gen Y auto insurance claimants, is the offering of multiple communication options, such as email, online and telephone, during the claims process. The study found that the use of technology to check the status of a claim has increased year-over-year by five percentage points to 42% of claimants. Email and online updates have each increased by two percentage points from last year to 27% and 17%, respectively.

But technology cannot fully replace humans during the claims process, J.D. Power cautioned. The study found that overall satisfaction was highest among customers who first contact their agent when filing a claim at 882, compared with 848 among those who file a claim directly through the website. In fact, only 7% of customers overall prefer to use digital channels (web or app) to report their claim, according to the survey. Gen Y has the highest preference for digital channels to report a claim, at 10%.

“While technology offers a customer more options, what we find is that even when customers file a digital claim they still want to talk with someone to get an explanation of the process, what to expect along the claims pathway and the timing,” Garrett said in the release. “Even the younger generations, which are most comfortable using digital channels, still want to talk with someone. We see the biggest gains in satisfaction when technology is used as a complementary channel for receiving status updates.”

Other key findings included:

  • While some insurance providers are reducing the agent’s role in the claims process, 80% of customers who purchased their policy through a local agent still call their agent first to report or seek advice regarding a claim. Among customers who call their agent first, 64% say their agent reported their claim, while 20% are transferred by their agent to a call centre and 16% are redirected. Overall customer satisfaction is 882 when the agent files the claim, but slips to 858 when the customer is transferred to a call centre and falls even further to 824 when they are instructed to contact the call centre;
  • Among the two-thirds of customers who have renewed their auto insurance policy since filing a claim, 28% say their insurance premiums have increased; and
  • Satisfaction with the claims experience affects customer retention and referrals. Among “delighted” claimants (overall satisfaction scores of 900 or higher), 84% said they “definitely will” renew their policy and 83% “definitely will” recommend their insurer. Among displeased claimants (scores of 549 and below), only 12% say they “definitely will” renew and 7% “definitely will” recommend their current insurer.

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