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State Farm Was There: Making Friends on I-287

The insurer's public/private partnership with the New Jersey Department of Transportation associates the State Farm brand with services that address risks faced by the general public.

State Farm Is There
New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) Safety Service Patrol vehicle sponsored by State Farm Insurance.
During some recent travel in New Jersey I drove over some road debris which suddenly appeared while I was passing a tractor trailer and blew out two tires and bent two rims. While pulled over, a New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) Safety Service Patrol sponsored by State Farm Insurance pulled up behind me. What followed was a very neighborly experience that saved me a lot of time — and probably a lot of money — leaving me with a very "good neighborly" feeling about the sponsor (and NJDOT).

The most important test of an insurer is the claim experience, but most customers never have one and wonder about the value of paying premium. They also hear about others' sometimes bad claim experiences along with other unfavorable messages one encounters in the media. Insurers struggle to communicate the social utility of their business, and owing to the mathematical, conditional and often complex nature of the business, maybe they always will. So what can they do?

As insurers process greatly increasing volumes of data from more and more sources in order to evaluate risks, they may be able to find new ways of becoming loss control consultants to both policyholders and society as a whole. In the meantime, insurers do well by providing services that emphasize their interest in understanding and mitigating the risks faced by citizens going about their business. State Farm's public/private partnership with NJDOT — announced in April 2012 — is a good example.

Any driver could appreciate a certain amount of support and reassurance provided by the presence of a patrol vehicle. My experience included that and much more. Having hit the debris near an exit, I was able to pull off the highway and into a nearby parking lot. I changed the right front wheel and got back on the road to get repairs. After a short time on the road, the back right tire deflated. The situation was far from dire — I had both OnStar and AAA service to chose from. However, the NJDOT vehicle pulled up and the operator — a friendly and resourceful guy named Ralph Hernandez — proceeded to see what he could do to help with his array of tools.

Long story short, while the rear tire was hopelessly damaged, the right front tire was intact — the bent rim had caused its deflation. Ralph was able to bend the rim of the right front tire back into shape and reinflate it. That gave me the ability to drive the car to a more convenient place to perform the remaining repairs. There was no cost for the State Farm/NJDOT service, and a no-tipping policy ensures that stranded drivers feel no pressure. The attitude of the operator was entirely consistent with State Farm "like a good neighbor" slogan, leaving me with a very positive impression. If the rest of the drivers are like Ralph, State Farm is onto a good thing.

Anthony O'Donnell has covered technology in the insurance industry since 2000, when he joined the editorial staff of Insurance & Technology. As an editor and reporter for I&T and the InformationWeek Financial Services of TechWeb he has written on all areas of information ... View Full Bio

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