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Jay Basnight, GomezPro
Jay Basnight, GomezPro
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Balancing Length and Accuracy in the Online Quote Process

Length and complexity may serve as a deterrent for online auto quote seekers, but firms have to make sure the information for proprietary algorithms is obtained for an accurate quote. Ultimately, firms aim for a balance of length and accuracy.

Online auto quote processes are an effective way of enticing new business. New business is usually obtained only after an online quote is offered through successful completion of the form's questions. In the insurance industry, online quote processes vary widely in terms of length and the types of questions that are asked. Length and complexity may serve as a deterrent for online auto quote seekers, but firms have to make sure the information necessary for proprietary algorithms is obtained for an accurate quote. Ultimately firms aim for a balance of length and accuracy.

This brief will analyze the differences among industry quote processes by observing both the length and the types of questions asked. Asking the relevant questions in a succinct and effective way undoubtedly helps to streamline the process and ensures higher completion rates while still maintaining accuracy in online auto insurance quoting.

In order to analyze the questions asked, we took a look at the online quote processes of Allstate, GEICO, Nationwide, Progressive, and State Farm for a single male living in the state of Colorado with one vehicle and no violations. We then broke the total number of questions into the three main categories of information required: driver, vehicle and coverage. A summation of the actual questions being asked was tallied instead of counting the number of answer boxes provided; for example, asking for a user's address would be considered one question instead of individual entries for street, town, city, ZIP code.

Our research showed that Allstate, GEICO and Nationwide asked the most questions overall with numbers totaling in the mid-fifties. The number of questions asked by State Farm was in the mid-forties. Progressive's total was the lowest, asking only 33 questions. GEICO had the most driver-related questions at 36 questions. Allstate and Nationwide asked 29 and 27 respectively, and Progressive and State Farm asked about 20. Allstate, Nationwide, and State Farm all asked 15 vehicle-related questions. GEICO asked 10 and Progressive asked 4. We found there was no significant disparity among coverage questions asked.

There are a variety of factors that affect the length of an online quote process.

Required Driver Information. Occasionally, firms have unique quote algorithm requirements that need to be addressed, including specific questions other firms do not ask. GEICO asks the same driver questions as Allstate and Nationwide, but includes many additional questions about types of government employment and military service required for specific discounts. GEICO requires that its consent form be read and agreed upon after beginning the process. Insurance carriers also often ask questions that are not necessary to provide an accurate quote. Nationwide, for instance, asks the user marketing questions such as "How did you hear about Nationwide?" Two similar firms, Allstate and State Farm, differ widely in the lengths of their quotes simply because State Farm does not ask many questions regarding a user's previous insurance, home ownership, or contact information, while Allstate does. Many firms across the industry have traditionally asked how much a prospect currently pays for insurance. Three firms, Allstate, GEICO, and Progressive, ask about a user's current coverage limits. Much of this information is often available and verified separately through services such as Equifax. This may confuse the user and raise suspicions that some questions are being used for purposes besides accurate quoting, thus undermining the goal of the quote -- completion.

VIN entry tools. Both GEICO and Progressive feature Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) entry tools in their quotes, which allow a user who enters his or her VIN to conveniently have the rest of their vehicle's information filled out automatically. Nationwide offers a VIN entry field but requires a user to fill in the rest of the car information on the same page. Requiring both does not add to the accuracy of the information or provide convenience, and only serves to lengthen the process for the user.

Question Repetition. Another factor that can confuse a prospect and lengthen the process is the repetition of questions. While going through the State Farm quote, a user will be asked twice if they have received their driver's license fewer than five years ago and three times whether drivers have had any violations over the past five years. Nationwide twice asks users if a driver needs a certificate of financial responsibility. The repetition of questions may cause concern as to the confidentiality of the user's information as well as serve to exasperate the user.

Relevancy and customizing the experience. Progressive's quote process is succinct because it does not bring forth questions until they are deemed necessary by previous responses. If a user answers a question in a certain way, additional questions may pop up in the page, as applicable. Progressive also takes advantage of asking time-saving questions. One "yes or no" question that can be easily answered by the user allows the carrier to avoid unnecessary follow-up questions. Carriers that ask questions already rendered irrelevant by previous responses run the risk of confusing prospects who expect a personalized experience.

Keen to avoiding the appearance of "bait and switch," all insurance firms strive to deliver fast and accurate online quotes. The goal is to obtain all the necessary information in the most time-efficient manner, so as to minimize abandonment. Progressive provides auto quote seekers with the fewest questions to answer, providing additional questions only when they are relevant to the accuracy of the quote. The online quote application is a valuable tool for Insurance companies to generate potential business, but in delivering a positive online experience, considerations must be made at each step to ensure a concise and thorough process that delivers accuracy in its brevity.

Jay Basnight, is a Research Analyst with Watchfire GomezPro in Waltham, MA. He can be reached at [email protected].

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