A semi-annual Online Insurance Scorecard has consistently ranked Progressive Insurance #1 in a comparison of the 12 largest U.S. auto and property insurance carriers’ websites and desktop capabilities. But the survey also revealed some surprising trends among big carriers that could open the door for smaller carriers and agents to better compete against the huge national insurers.
The scorecard, compiled by Keynova Group, an intelligence firm that provides benchmarking insights and analysis of consumer and small business digital financial services, found that Progressive was first in three of the four online categories and in three of the five associated tasks. None of the other top three firms, which included GEICO and State Farm, placed first in more than one of the nine category and task areas and none placed consistently in the top five across all functions.
“Progressive’s areas of strength – usability factors associated with online quoting, offering digital or emerging payment options for purchasing a new policy, or paying a premium – met more criteria for online support than any other carrier we reviewed,” said Keynova Group Managing Director Beth Robertson.
Robertson said Keynova Group’s scorecard assessment used a weighted matrix that produced a detailed evaluation of each carrier’s digital site across four categories highlighting site capabilities and features (Functionality, Ease of Use, Privacy & Security, and Support & Access) and five key user task areas (Policyholder Acquisition, Policy Management, Billing & Payment, Claims, and Educational Resources).
“Another area that I focused on in the report is claims,” she said. “There continues to be fairly significant variation in the capabilities that are available across the digital channels of website, mobile browser, and mobile app. Satisfactory claims experiences are key to retention, so this is a critical area to streamline across channels so the policyholder has a consistent and excellent experience regardless of access point."
Despite the move to more digital and online access, a startling trend of big carriers abandoning published email addresses and even phone numbers for customer support could backfire and provide and opening for more personalized support for smaller agencies and carriers.
Eliminating secure email is a trend across many financial services firms as they turn to more interactive forms of support that are better suited to the expectations of digital channel users, Robertson said. These include options such as text, live chat, or hybrid chat.
"I think that making phone numbers harder to locate or eliminating them altogether is a mistake,” she said. “Insurance is a complex and confusing topic and purchasing decision for many consumers.”
While digital channels can promote and encourage self-servicing and provide tools like calculators, FAQs, or video demos to help users make the right choices, there are times when talking to a knowledgeable customer support representative is the best option, said Robertson.
“Providing clear paths for phone access when it's needed will help insurers retain existing users and recruit new ones," she said.
Phone support is the most traditional route for accessing support and best practices, Keynova found.
“Notably, though, two firms (Allstate and Liberty Mutual) no longer list or link to a toll-free number from the secure site homepage, while GEICO has removed phone support from its quote form, stating, ‘We are no longer offering quotes over the phone,’” the scorecard said.
Some other findings and highlights in Keynova’s scorecard:
Allstate and USAA join the total of six carriers that introduce the claims process in the desktop environment with an overview and a time estimate for completing the claim form. Comparatively, among the mobile apps offered by Scorecard carriers, only Liberty Mutual provides an overview and time estimate for claims filing.
In the desktop claims interface, Farmers, Nationwide, State Farm, and USAA link to key coverage details; of these firms, only Nationwide and State Farm were among five firms providing this detail in the app process.
Five carriers provide mapping tools in the desktop claims interface to indicate where an accident has occurred; however, only four firms offer mapping in their app , including three – Nationwide, State Farm, and Travelers – that support mapping for both desktop and mobile users.
Contact preferences for claims purposes are included in nine carriers' desktop interfaces, while eight support claimant contact preferences in their mobile apps.
Claims payment choices are becoming more diversified. While typically including check or ACH direct deposit options, Allstate, GEICO, State Farm, and Travelers also support alternatives such as PayPal, Apple Pay, Zelle, and/or a credit push to a debit card. Seven firms enable claimants to use the desktop claims interface to indicate their payment preference while only five offer this selection option in app.
“As the tight economy, rising claims rates, and increasing payouts are combining to place pressure on insurers’ financial performance, many carriers are fine-tuning customer support elements to control expenses,” the scorecard notes. “It is critical, however, to carefully implement changes so as not to frustrate users, detract from a positive digital experience, or risk customer attrition.
The scorecard found that virtual assistant chatbots are becoming more common, recently introduced by Liberty Mutual and Travelers, bringing the total offering of these chatbots to 10 insurers.
Doug Bailey is a journalist and freelance writer who lives outside of Boston. He can be reached at [email protected].