More people went price-shopping for insurance during the pandemic, but they weren’t always thrilled with the experience when they used digital channels. That’s the message from consumer analytics firm J.D. Power’s new 2021 U.S. Insurance Digital Experience Study, which measured customer perceptions about digital interactions with their property and casualty insurance companies.

Key Takeaways

  • Consumers set a high bar for easy digital interactions with their insurers, a new J.D. Power study shows.
  • As record numbers of insurance customers moved to digital during the pandemic, many insurers saw major year-over-year swings in their satisfaction scores.
  • A separate study from Accenture finds that some insurance customers still prefer a mix of digital tools and human help.

Digital Becoming a Major Driver in Satisfaction Scores

"The bar just continues to get higher for customer expectations around digital," says Tom Super, head of property and casualty insurance intelligence at J.D. Power. "And while many insurers are hitting the mark on the digital basics, few are using digital in new ways to drive growth and engagement."

For instance, most insurers make it easy enough for insurance shoppers to learn about different types of coverage and to get a quote either online or via a mobile app. But when policy tasks become a little more complex, like adding a vehicle to an existing policy, the study suggests insurers struggle to deliver the top-notch digital experience that customers want. That’s an issue, Super says, because satisfaction scores in the study improve about 100 points or more when customers feel that completing tasks is "very easy" vs. "somewhat easy."

Specifically, the study probed the functional aspects of desktop, mobile web, and mobile apps focusing on five factors: ease of navigation, appearance, availability of key information, range of services, and clarity. Based on 11,548 evaluations, additional findings show:

  • Satisfaction scores stayed flat or declined. Customer service satisfaction rose a negligible two points to 860 (on a 1,000-point scale) from 858 in 2020. But satisfaction with the shopping experience declined to 788 from 800 a year ago, as record numbers of insurance customers transitioned to digital during the height of the pandemic. Within these numbers, Super says, many insurers saw volatile year-over-year swings in their overall satisfaction scores.
  • Mobile apps fared better. Satisfaction was substantially higher across all factors in the study among mobile app users and those who say they’re tech savvy. Mobile app usage, in fact, increased 26% this year. 

"The real challenge for insurers is pushing the envelope on digital innovation," says Super. That means by going "beyond the basics of simply digitizing customer tasks. Those that can make this leap will be poised to separate themselves from the pack."

Who Leads in Digital Dominance?

For the fourth year in a row, GEICO ranked highest for service with a score of 879, the J.D. Power data showed. Progressive (868) came in second, and Farmers (867) and The Hartford (867) tied for third. USAA, which was scored but not ranked because it doesn't sell to the general public, earned an 890.

In the shopping category, Mercury ranked highest with a score of 821. Auto-Owners Insurance (816) ranked second, and State Farm (807) came in third. Here USAA was just in the middle of the pack, with a 787.

Many Want a Human/Digital Balance

The J.D. Power study concludes that insurers have work to do when it comes to getting ahead of what it calls "good enough" digital insurance offerings—and meeting customers' growing expectations. But there's also evidence that some policyholders may still prefer a blend of digital tools and human assistance.

While they connect digitally more often—particularly during COVID-19—insurance customers still view human touchpoints as more trustworthy when they have a need. That's according to a 2021 study by the consulting firm Accenture. which captured the opinions of 47,810 respondents.

When making an insurance claim, for instance, almost half (49%) said they place a lot of trust in a human advisor, while only 12% said the same of automated service over phone, web, or email. Just 7% trusted a chatbot.

The bottom line? "Insurance can be an emotionally complex business for consumers," the Accenture report notes, "so they need the freedom to choose methods of interaction most comfortable for them."