Consumers more often research an insurance company online and make a purchase at the website rather than make a call to talk with someone at the company.
Not surprising, since insurance salespeople have such a bad reputation for withholding full information or selling the product that will give them the best commission. And even if you feel more comfortable making your final purchase talking directly with a salesperson, you should do in-depth online research, including a full comparison of benefits, to form your final questions before purchase. Fortunately, there are more online resources to help you do so.
In the past, people have accepted a policy after talking with a salesperson and then had a certain amount of time -- usually 30 days -- to read the fine print. Today, you can look at that fine print online and compare offers from various companies much more easily than making a bunch of phone calls.
A good place to start is one of the websites that let you compare offerings, such as Insurance.com, esurance.com and insure.com. You can even ask a question or get information on a good deal at various social media websites like AutoInsQuote96.
If you search for insurance on Twitter, you'll find numerous sites, some run by the insurance companies themselves and others by independent consumers. Once you narrow down your choices, you can research them in greater depth at the company's website. Also, don't forget to check the company's ratings.
In fact, a survey from Mintel Comperemedia suggests social media is starting to catch on as a source for researching insurance, though that trend is still in its infancy. It found only 4% of survey respondents used social media, but that number jumped to 10% for individuals who make between $75,000 and $100,000 a year.
The survey also found that 11% of survey respondents follow companies on social networking websites, but when you look closer at the numbers, 20% of those are ages 25 to 34 and 19% are earning $75,000 to $100,000. That gives insurance companies a good idea of what age group and income levels to focus their social networking sites on.
But even more telling is that these same age and income groups also prefer to shop online rather than talk with an agent. The survey found that 35% of 25- to 34-year-olds and 30% of those earning more than $100,000 would rather shop online. But another survey by AIS Media Inc. found that 31% of respondents were dissatisfied with insurance company website usability, 49.5% were somewhat satisfied and 19.5% were very satisfied or extremely satisfied. The lesson: Something, even if it's not as usable as people would like, is better than nothing.
What does this mean for consumers? Insurance companies should be improving their website interactive material. People clearly prefer to research online before making a purchase. The AIS Media survey found that 59% who received a promotion in the mail went to the insurance company website rather than called. That's a good sign: Consumers are not as easily swayed to purchase after getting a glossy mailing with pretty graphics.
Lita Epstein has written more than 25 books including The Complete Idiot's Guide to Personal Bankruptcy and The Complete Idiot's Guide to Social Security and Medicare.
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