12/21/2009

What the marketers would have you believe

It seems marketers live in a world designed by Rod Serling where everything bad is ignored, most things are satisfactory and an alarming number of service providers are outstanding. J.D. Power and Associates is one of the largest marketing information companies in the world. It produces regular ratings and reports on how we view an industry in general and how we rank individual companies within that industry. So, for example, a recent report finds us satisfied with our banks and it lists the banks we think are the best. OK. So there is always a slight time lag between the collection of data and the publication of the results of analyzing that data, but this seems a strange result. In the midst of a recession with a record-breaking number of banks failing, predatory terms for credit cards and other credit hard to find, you might wonder where J.D. Power found the people to answer their survey questions. Well, the results of their 2009 survey of our attitudes toward vehicle insurance providers is also out. You will be stunned and awed by the revelation that customer satisfaction is up significantly this year! Some 23,000 human beings claiming to hold policies were polled in March and April, 2009.

So what has apparently prompted this rise in the level of satisfaction with the insurance industry? Well, it seems the insurers - kind, caring and sensitive to a fault - have been reducing their premiums. In the earlier years of this century, we were all increasingly unhappy as those premium notices kept coming in with ever higher numbers written on them. But, come the recession and the insurers step on to the mound, they pitch premium reductions. According to J.D. Power, some 42% of all those insuring vehicles found their premiums fell during the twelve months period to April 2009; and that's without having to change companies! Since we are all price sensitive, we now love insurers because they are saving us money. We all love their websites and find there are real improvements in the way the companies relate to us. That, of course, excludes claims handling which is the most important interaction. It seems no-one worries about the poor service on claims handling.

Which brings us to admit how we arrive at our prejudices. According to J.D. Power, we can all be bought by a few dollars of reduction in the premiums. Before the recession, the majority disapproved the quality of the service provided by auto insurance companies. Now we love them. Well, that's the result you get when you ask questions about an industry's image and design the questions to get mostly positive answers. Of course, we can like a company that reduces its prices. We can also admire the quality of its website and marketing materials. But if the questions do not focus on our experience when we try to claim following a traffic accident, the results of this hyped report are misleading. When you are shopping for the best auto insurance companies, do not believe the ads. Check out the companies on the website operated by your state's department of insurance. Verify their financial stability with the ratings agencies. You do not want to pay your premium and then find the company is insolvent. Use reliable sources of information when looking for a policy.

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