I had a conversation with a friend the other day that gave me inspiration for this topic. My friend, who I will call an insurance company loyalist, said “I have been with my insurance company for 52 years. When I call they jump.” We discussed this belief for a little while as I wanted to get a little more insight from his perspective. For the purpose of this week’s topic, it is coming from the perspective of being in CA, considering CA insurance law. If you are from another state, your laws may be different, and I am not an attorney so this is not legal advice.
In 1988 California voters passed Prop 103, which was a insurance reform proposition. It is my understanding that this law, while primarily focused on regulating rates, protects insurance consumers by preventing the use of discriminatory tactics by insurance companies. What this means is that insurance companies have to treat a 1 day customer, with the same service as a 52 year customer. If the insurance company gives preferential service to the older customer over the newer customer they are subject to penalties and fines if the Department of Insurance were to investigate complaints of this nature. Typically the penalties far exceed the value of any client, so insurance companies do not waiver in their treatment of their customers regardless of tenure. So for my friend, while the company may listen a little more politely, their policy for him is the same as a new customer. If they jump for him, they jump for everyone. As an insurance shopper, just know that your treatment is the same no matter how long you are with a specific company.
I am not privy to the world of corporate leaders, but I would bet in the insurance company boardrooms, and executive meetings, the opposite of ‘jumping’ is the case. Given how much insurance companies study the business for profit, I would bet loyalist customers are the most profitable customers for insurance companies. Once the insurance loyalist is set in their comfort zone, they can be taken advantage of with changes in policies or direction. These corporate leaders don’t talk about special privileges for loyalists, but rather take the insurance loyalist for granted, assuming that no matter what they do as a company, or how they treat their customers, the loyalists will stay. Similar to some sports teams, where no matter how bad the product is, the fans stick around in faith for their team. In the meantime the executives get healthy bonus payment and the company makes healthy profits on the back of these consumers. Since my goal is to give good tips or advice on insurance shopping, it makes sense to get you to think about these things.
What I did tell my friend was he, like any insurance consumer, should shop his insurance regularly or talk to his agent about pricing other companies, to could confirm his pricing is the best. Why throw money away over a brand? I told him the primary factors in determining his best rate are: his driving record (tickets and accidents), the number of years of driving experience he has, and how far he drives each year.
There are other factors that insurance companies may use in determining rates and those are the important ones for insurance shoppers and finding the best price. Did his company offer a loyalty discount of some type? Yes. I asked him, what his 52 years of loyalty was worth to his company. We did some math and his loyalty discount was worth about 7%. Moving forward, knowing that your 52 years of brand loyalty to an insurance company was worth about 7%, would you stick around especially if there were greater discounts elsewhere?
In the category of these other factors, there are companies with discounts for college degrees or targeted professions worth 15% or more. Did his company have something like that? No, he said. From the perspective of being an insurance shopper over a company loyalist, in just this one discount he potentially was sacrificing an additional savings of 8%. This is only one example of potential savings for insurance shoppers. Companies advertise discounts for alumni associations or organizations you belong to, or extra discounts for having an ‘extra’ clean driving record. The key for insurance shoppers is to be willing to look around. It doesn’t take much to shop for comparison quotes, and the insurance shopper and the insurance loyalist both may save some money.
My take on the matter, you don’t have to shop your insurance every year, but I would look for the triggers indicating you should. Did your rate change from one policy period to another but your primary rating factors did not? Is there a change that your company or agent pass off as simply ‘new rates’? Does the explanation you hear not make a lot of sense? Not every company raises their rates at the same time, or changes discounts that you qualify for, so if that happens to you, use your triggers to be a new insurance shopper.