After Wal-Mart announced it would be partnering with AutoInsurance.com to service car insurance customers through its website, independent agents were quick to point out that a comparative quote engine from a major super-chain can’t compare with the one-on-one consultation provided by an independent insurance agent.
“Consumers soon discover after time with the direct companies that dealing with an agent versus a call center, the agent wins in the end,” commented IBA
reader Scott Neilson, “though it takes sometimes years or bad claims experience for them to discover this.”
Wal-Mart officials do not share that concern, however. In an interview with Insurance Business
, corporate spokesperson Sarah McKinney maintained there were “lots of ways” the new service provides the personal touch auto insurance customers crave.
“There are a number of ways to have personal touch,” McKinney said. “The consumer can speak with a knowledgeable, licensed agent via a live chat or through our toll-free call center. Of course, some consumers would prefer not to speak with anyone, so we now offer the ability to complete the entire process including purchasing the policy online.”
McKinney was referring to AutoInsurance.com’s Charlotte, N.C.-based call center where licensed agents speak with consumers and advise them on individual insurance decisions.
Wal-Mart also rejected the assertion that by offering low-priced policies online, it was attracting high-risk drivers.
“We developed this platform to be inclusive of all drivers,” McKinney said. “Our platform offers price comparisons for multiple different risk profiles.”
Wal-Mart said the superstore does not currently have plans to expand its insurance offerings outside of the auto line, but noted that its original pilot program with AutoInsurance.com has received positive feedback and significant savings.
According to a pilot program survey it conducted last year in Pennsylvania, Wal-Mart customers who purchased policies from AutoInsurance.com say they saved roughly $1,168 on average annually.
“Insurance is one of our consumers’ biggest monthly expenses and many feel they are overpaying for the insurance they have and don’t know if they are getting the best coverage and the coverage they need,” Wal-Mart Senior Vice President of Services said at the time. “We thought we could bring something to life in both of these arenas.”
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