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Poor call centre performances driving motorists online for insurance

In their efforts to cut costs more and more finance companies are looking to use offshore call centres to provide their customer services and administration. This is especially prevalent in the insurance industry, where it seems as if there is a newspaper announcement of previously UK based services migrating abroad every day. As more insurers use offshore call centres, recent research from Swinton insurance shows that motorists are increasingly turning to the internet to find the best deal on their car insurance.

Drivers are constantly advised to search around and obtain multiple quotes when it comes to renewal time, with recent research showing that drivers needed to obtain at least seven car insurance quotes to be likely to have found their most competitive deal, on average 52.26 better than their first quote. However with 47 per cent of those looking for car insurance taking more than ten minutes to obtain a single quote by phone, while a single quick search on a website like Moneynet, or Insure Supermarket can provide immediate comparisons of tens or hundreds of car insurance providers, it is understandable that people are turning towards the internet as a means of shopping around for the best deals.

It is not only the length of time taken by the call centres that motorists appear to have a problem with. The study found that the number of motorists looking for car insurance online has now reached 681,000 with many of them citing poor call centre performance, and doubts over the efficacy of the call centres as the main reasons why they are no longer using the phone to obtain insurance.

Most of those questioned indicated that concerns over the levels of customer service provided by call centres, with offshore centres targeted in particular, was a major factor for them fuelling a move from phone to the internet. Rightly or wrongly, most of those surveyed felt that the service provided, and the time taken for problems to be resolved, by offshore call centres would be slower, when compared with their UK call centres counterparts.

Despite the high levels of respondents reporting being unhappy with the customer service provided by UK call centres, and general levels of dissatisfaction with call centre staff growing, the phone is still most drivers' favoured method of buying cover. Swinton claims almost two thirds of UK motorists indicated they use the phone to buy their car insurance, while the number of motorists purchasing their cover online has now risen to 23%. The AA have stated that the figures are actually closer to 40% of all new car insurance now being arranged on the internet, with online sales of car insurance last year growing by nearly two-thirds.

However, even with the growth in the number of people using the internet and despite all the safety measures implemented to facilitate online transactions, more than a million motorists are reported as still not trusting the internet as a safe purchasing tool, and feel safer using the phone to speak directly to a person. This is despite recent news reports of the bank account details of 1,000 UK customers, including passwords, addresses and passport data, held by Indian call centres, being sold to an undercover reporter from the Sun.

Andrew Jackson, marketing director for Swinton said, "We believe that despite the increase in the number of people purchasing car insurance on the internet, the phone will continue to be a popular method as long as providers ensure that their call centres provide good quality customer service,".

However unless call centre based companies redress the publics perceptions of poor performance offered by call centres, they are liable to find more motorists trying to find other options, and if the internet based insurance providers can convince the increasingly technologically savvy public that buying online is safe, then we may soon see the rapid decline of call centres and see the internet becoming the primary source of information for motorists in their quest for cheaper car insurance.

Richard works in Edinburgh for a media company, occasionally writing for the personal finance blog Cashzilla, and drinking too much coffee. References: AA

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