Price Optimization Still a Concern for Many in Auto Insurance Field

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    In the last year or two, there has been a lot of attention paid to the ways in which some auto insurance companies will potentially charge long-time customers more for coverage than they do new clients with similar driving records. This practice is known as “price optimization,” and comes because insurers rely on a certain amount of stasis from people who haven’t shopped for coverage in a while. But more consumers – and potentially even regulators – are starting to find the practice troubling, and it’s an issue that more insurance agents are likely to have to deal with in the course of their jobs than they would have been even a year ago.

    In the last few years, a number of studies have shown that consumers can potentially save a lot of money – possibly hundreds annually – simply by switching auto insurance companies, according to a report from Reuters. This is particularly true of people who have been locked into a deal with one insurer for a period of several years or more; one such examination of the market found that a person who had kept the same insurer for eight years could slash his or her rates by about 19 percent with a switch.

    Why is this the case?
    Price optimization is a real thing in the industry, and as more consumers learn about it, a larger share of clients are going to be uncomfortable with the prospect, the report said. Effectively, insurers are using the inertia of current clients against them, in a way, by charging them more for the same coverage so that they can offer those deep discounts to prospective new clients as a means of luring them away from competitors.

    “It is disappointing to think your loyalty to a company can hurt you,” Carol Lachnit, features editor for automotive website, told the news organization. “[Insurers are] sort of measuring how likely you are to resist a price increase to your premium. You have to look at your own pocketbook and your own budget and decide.”

    Consumers typically won't fret about higher costs if their agents can do more to keep them informed and happy.Consumers typically won’t fret about higher costs if their agents can do more to keep them informed and happy.

    The flip side
    But at the same time, if insurers can do more to keep clients happy, they might not mind the added cost, the report said. Auto insurance satisfaction levels have been on the rise the last few years, and studies show that efforts to keep clients happy generally offset many concerns about the cost of coverage.

    Indeed, one of the biggest issues consumers often say they face when they deal with insurance isn’t necessarily the cost of coverage, but how satisfied they are with it overall. Insurance agents will therefore typically play a big role in that satisfaction level, because they’re the boots on the ground when dealing with clients. Therefore, the more they can do to ensure their clients fully understand their coverage, what they’re paying for, and why, they’re more likely to keep those consumers happy. That, in turn, could end up buoying their client retention numbers significantly.