Consumers are more satisfied than ever with their auto insurance companies. And, recently, Erie Insurance ranked highest among auto insurers in providing a satisfying purchase experience, according to the J.D. Power and Associates “2013 U.S. Insurance Shopping Study.”

Now in its seventh year, the study is based on responses from more than 16,900 shoppers who requested an auto insurance price quote from at least one competitive insurer in the past 12 months. It examines insurance shopping and purchase behavior and overall satisfaction among customers who recently purchased insurance across three factors: price, distribution channel and policy offerings.

Erie ended up with a 854-point score on a 1,000-point scale, and the industry average came in at 828. Rounding out the five highest-ranked insurers were Ameriprise (846), Amica Mutual and Liberty Mutual in a tie (845 each), and State Farm (843). (See complete list of rankings and scores below.)

With all this satisfaction comes fewer shoppers. “Unlike many other industries we measure, policy retention rates for personal auto insurance in the U.S. market average 90 percent,” said Jeremy Bowler, senior director of the global insurance practice at J.D. Power and Associates. “With customer satisfaction generally high and climbing, this industry has witnessed fewer customers shopping, but those who are shopping are serious about switching insurers.”

Among the 23 percent of customers who shopped auto insurance in the past 12 months, 45 percent ultimately switched insurers—the highest rate since the study first began measuring insurance customer retention in 2008. By comparison, the proportion of insurance customers who shop has decreased from a high of 33 percent in 2011, while the switching rate among shoppers has steadily increased from a low of 33 percent in 2010.

The study finds that the importance of the insurer website in the new-buyer purchase experience has increased to 24 percent in 2013, up from 22 percent in 2012. The call center representative is less influential among customers selecting a new insurer in 2013 (20 percent), compared with 2012 (22 percent), while the local agent remains as influential as in previous years.

“As more shoppers are buying their insurance online, it’s vital that insurance companies provide a high-quality and effective Web experience, whether customers are accessing the site on a desktop computer, a tablet or a smartphone,” Bowler said. “Customers want a site that’s easy to navigate, allows them to get a quote and even complete the purchase without having to speak with an agent or call center representative. If they’re not able to get that from one insurer’s website, they will quickly move to the next insurer’s site.”

J.D. Power and Associates’ Customer Satisfaction Index Ranking, from the “2013 U.S. Insurance Shopping Study”:

Erie Insurance - 854

Ameriprise - 846

Amica Mutual - 845

Liberty Mutual - 845

State Farm - 843

American Family - 841

The Hartford - 840

Esurance - 834

Farmers - 831

Safeco - 831

Nationwide - 830

Allstate - 828

Auto-Owners Insurance - 827

Automobile Club Group - 826

Automobile Club of Southern California - 823

MetLife - 822

GEICO - 817

21st Century - 812

Progressive - 810

GMAC - 809

Allied - 808

Mercury - 806

Travelers - 805

AAA NCNU Insurance Exchange - 799

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