June 22, 2012

There's no shortage of evaluations of auto insurers' online quoting capabilities. Esurance recently took the top spot in one such study, by the Customer Respect Group, which VP of customer experience Lisa Ward attributes to a customer-focused culture that's existed from the beginning of the San Francisco-based company.

"We grew up an online company, so user experience has been a part of our conversations from the very beginning," Ward says. "It's the website, but it's also the copywriters, designers, the social media folks. We're always in the loop in terms of being in sync with our messaging."

Recent comScore research indicates that among consumers who say they are not likely to purchase auto insurance online in the future, a major stumbling block is the amount of information they have to input to get a quote. Ward says that Esurance is working on ways to smooth the process while still gathering what the company needs to underwrite products effectively.

"We have a pretty big stake in that conversation. The product team has requirements that they have to have, but I need to say, 'Taking your requirements, What's the best way to accomplish that?'

"Can you get it through a report, can you infer it through other things that you have?" she continues. "We view every question and new page as a barrier. We try to collect information in a more organized and useful way. Users are very comfortable giving you information that they feel makes sense with what they have to do. If it's not relevant in the customer's mind, then you either have to not ask for it, or educate them on what it's relevant."

An example of one of these data points is amount paid for current premium, Ward says. But while Esurance or any other insurer might not be able to get down to one click, she says that these bottlenecks show how the online customer has evolved over time.

"All those traits that were unique to us when we started in 1999 are now pervasive. Our target at that time was just thinking about buuying airline tickets online," she says. "I can remember serious questions about as few clicks as possible in 2005 when we redesigned our policy management system. Often times the sales side of it gets so much focus, but your policy system is a workhorse and it needs to be solid for you too."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nathan Golia is senior editor of Insurance & Technology. He joined the publication in 2010 as associate editor and covers all aspects of the nexus between insurance and information technology, including mobility, ...