Alan Bauer - Fast 50 2003

KEEP ON TICKING

Insurance companies are famous for fostering confusion among customers. Progressive Casualty Insurance has always been an exception. Alan Bauer's innovation is a case in point. The problem: how to help customers compare prices on auto insurance. The answer: a Web-based "rate ticker" similar to the scrolling stock prices on CNBC. In real time, the ticker scrolls Progressive's rate compared with those of its rivals, even when Progressive's is most expensive. Bauer's company doesn't always win the business, but it wins points for honesty.

Alan Bauer
Direct group president
Progressive Casualty Insurance Co.
Mayfield Village, Ohio
http://www.progressive.com

Additional Team Members:
"I want to thank the entire Internet Team at Progressive for their efforts and in particular, the following team members for their work on the rate ticker:
Leslie Youngstrom, proof of concept
Bonnie Benes, designer
Nora Walsh, copy
Jack Hecker, programmer"

FROM ALAN'S ORIGINAL ENTRY:

Tell us what you do (or what your team or organization does) and the specific challenge you faced.
Fast, fair, better. That's what auto insurance consumers can expect from Progressive. Everything we do recognizes the needs of busy consumers who are cost-conscious, increasingly savvy about insurance and ready for easy, new ways to quote, buy and manage their policies, including claims service that respects their time and reduces the trauma and inconvenience of an accident. We've given customers comparison rates for other insurance companies for years, frustrating competitors with our openness. But how do we really keep the attention of consumers? They see this message on our commercials every day. How do we "show" them how much rates vary and that they can save by shopping around? And how do we show them that we are providing real rates and that they can compare rates too?

What was your moment of truth?
We were in the middle of updating our Web site, and one night, watching the news, Alan was struck by the scrolling news ticker, and thought "why not put our own 'rate ticker' right on the progressive.com home page?" He challenged our crack Internet team to create the first-of-its kind insurance rate ticker. And the result? Today we take real consumers (protecting their privacy, of course) and show in real time, for all site visitors to see, their quote from Progressive and the rates that other companies would charge for the same policy. And, yes, we even show these rates when Progressive's is the most expensive. That's right, we risk the sale, in the interest of driving our point home to consumers. The rate ticker is the first thing they see when they come to our site. Go check it out for yourself: http://www.progressive.com.

What were the results?
The ticker gets attention—and respect—from customers. Positive customer feedback includes, "It's appealing for its novelty and ability to save consumers time doing research," "The scrolling quotes were pretty good because Progressive was not always the cheapest," and "It makes Progressive look fair." Site traffic has increased by 30 percent and direct sales applications via the Internet and over the phone have increased by 20 percent since the end of 2001. We believe the ticker helped create these positive results.

What's your parting tip?
The lesson is clear—share openly and freely. Consumers want it.

Read more entries from the Fast 50 2003

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