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Brand, Price Or Service – What Do Customers Value Most?

Insurance Times commissioned exclusive market research to find out what the public really think about insurance. Price is seen as key, but there are other factors that customers clearly value too

What’s most important to customers: brand, price or service? That was the question posed by market research agency Consumer Intelligence as part of a wider public opinion survey commissioned by Insurance Times into consumer attitudes to the insurance industry – the full results of which have appeared in this week’s issue.

Consumer Intelligence asked survey respondents how highly they rated the following factors when buying insurance: brand reputation, customer service and price.

Price emerged as the clear winner, with 82% saying it was very important and 16% as quite important.

Nearly as significant was customer service, rated by 57% of respondents as very important and 36% as quite important. In third place was brand reputation, with 32% judging it as very important, and 46% saying it was quite important. A relatively hefty 18% of respondents said the reputation of the brand they were buying from wasn’t really a factor when buying insurance products.

No surprises

For many insurance professionals, consumers’ focus on price is unsurprising, given that we are in the middle of a recession.

Groupama Insurances personal lines director Kevin Kiernan says: “The fact that almost 98% of respondents to the survey regard price as important or very important when buying insurance is really not surprising.”

He takes a downbeat interpretation of the findings: “It illustrates that customers have no real appreciation of the genuine value in the products we sell.”

This headline finding on price also tallies with Sabre Insurance chief executive Keith Morris’s impression. He says: “My own experience at Sabre, where we use different brands that have little or no public awareness on aggregator sites, is that price pretty much trumps all other factors. If two prices are very close, then brand does count – but if not, price wins every time.”

Service matters

However, Consumer Intelligence managing director Ian Hughes believes the rating of customer service ahead of brand sheds an interesting light on what customers want.

He says: “If you think you can put in a computer system to take care of things, it’s not enough.”

A-Plan chief executive Carl Shuker believes that the performance of his firm, which relies on face-to-face contact with customers, shows that treating people properly makes good business sense.

Kiernan is less sanguine. “The constant marketing of price as the main differentiator has been very effective,” he says, “but we need to understand that ultimately it destroys loyalty, pushes up the cost and drives the cycle – something that means a lack of consistency for customers and little long-term profitability for the market.”

Brand values

But Bluefin chief executive Stuart Reid believes the findings paint a more nuanced picture. “It’s no surprise that price leads the field, but service is incredibly close behind and brand is no laggard.

“In the never-ending struggle to get away from price as the sole differentiator, I take this as a very promising sign that, in the long term, it will be the strong brands with a service-led culture that will win the day.”

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