Automotive insurance premiums show no sign of leveling off as rates increased an average of 13 percent since 2002, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2003 National Auto Insurance Study. Despite increasing costs, customer satisfaction with auto insurance providers has stabilized after a two-year slide. Customers report spending an average of $1,190 annually in auto insurance premiums in 2003-up from $1,050 in 2002. Since 2000, customer-reported insurance premiums have increased an average of 32 percent. "It's difficult to view stabilization of customer satisfaction as an improvement, but it's a step in the right direction when you compare it to the dramatic drop in customer satisfaction the industry had experienced since 2001," said Carolyn Waidelich, research manager at J.D. Power and Associates. "Consumers don't want to be forced to pay more for the same insurance services, but good customer service can help offset the sting of rising premiums." The amount of time and number of phone calls it takes to resolve an issue, regardless of whether it is claims related, are vital to customer satisfaction. The study finds that when customer issues are resolved in the first call, it has a positive effect on their satisfaction levels. However, satisfaction is quickly diminished with each additional call. "While many providers cite that approximately 95 percent of all issues are resolved during the first call, 35 percent of survey respondents indicate they had to call back at least once before their issue was resolved," said Jeremy Bowler, director of the insurance practice at J.D. Power and Associates. Among auto insurance providers, Amica Mutual ranks highest in overall auto insurance customer satisfaction for the fourth consecutive year. Amica achieves the top scores in each of the eight drivers of overall satisfaction (in order of importance): doing business with insurer; fulfilling commitments; ease of working with insurer; claims; billing; personnel; price; and problem resolution. Automobile Club of Southern California, Erie Insurance Group and State Farm follow Amica in the rankings, respectively. Nationwide is the most improved provider in the study, moving up nine positions over 2002 to round out the top five. USAA, an insurance provider open only to the U.S. military community and their families and therefore not included in the rankings, achieved a higher satisfaction score than Amica. The 2003 National Auto Insurance Study is based on 14,862 responses from auto insurance policy holders. A more detailed listing of the results by insurance provider is available at the J.D. Power Consumer Center at www.jdpower.com/cc/auto/insuranceratings/FindInsuranceRatings.jsp
. Headquartered in Westlake Village, Calif., J.D. Power and Associates is an ISO 9001-registered global marketing information services firm operating in key business sectors including market research, forecasting, consulting, training and customer satisfaction.