Consumers have more customer service options, but they prefer human interaction to the automation for car insurance a new poll shows.

Policyholders prefer conversation to automation, study finds

It seems like everything is going the way of the robot these days, as the advancement of technology has made automated services possible in all walks of life. From driving a car to ordering food, what amounts to self-service looks to be an ongoing theme that will only increase over time.

But there's at least one customer service arena that many Americans believe is better off with a human touch: auto insurance.

On the whole, policyholders have good things to say about the insurance claims process, J.D. power and Associates recently discovered from its Auto Claims Satisfaction Study. On a scale of 1 to 1,000, sentiment is up across the board, averaging 844 among millennials, 912 among pre-boomers, and 878 for boomers.

Satisfaction greater with insurance representative

Interestingly, however, the degree to which policyholders are pleased with the process depends upon who – or what – they're receiving services from. For example, when a claimant's initial interaction is with a customer service representative or insurance professional, satisfaction was 882, J.D. Power found. When the filing was done first through a website, satisfaction averaged 848 on a scale of 1,000. A mere 7% of respondents said that self-service – such as websites and mobile apps – was their preferred method of interaction with their insurers.

Mark Garrett, Director of Insurance Industry Analytics at J.D. Power, indicated that unlike other products, auto insurance is something that needs to be elaborated on or explained further because it's not one in the same from person to person.

"While technology offers a customer more options, what we find is that even when customers file a digital claim they still want to talk with someone to get an explanation of the process, what to expect along the claims pathway, and the timing," Garrett explained. "Even the younger generations, which are most comfortable using digital channels, still want to talk with someone."

He added that automated technology is best used as a complement to auto insurance customer services, rather than as a full-scale replacement.

Fueled by economy, more people are driving

With gas prices averaging well below $2.50 a gallon across much of the U.S. – a stark contrast to years prior, when regular unleaded costing less than $3 was almost impossible – more people are on the roadways today. According to the Insurance Information Institute, the uptick in traffic stems largely from an improving economy, with more people previously unemployed finding work.

Higher employment has led to an increased number of policyholders looking to compare auto insurance quotes. For example, through the first three months of 2016, almost 1 in 5 people with a credit profile – 17.3% – shopped for car insurance at some point, according to credit agency TransUnion. That's up from 17% in 2015 and 16.8% in 2014.

"By all indications, we should see a continued strong appetite for auto insurance shopping in the near future," predicted Mark McElroy, Executive Vice President of TransUnion's insurance business unit.

Not surprisingly, the likelihood of policyholders looking for an alternative policy or coverage provider largely depends on their satisfaction level. Of those in the J.D. Power poll who expressed extreme contentment with their existing policies and services rendered, nearly 85% were definitive about re-upping when their term expired. Just 12% said they'd renew despite being unhappy.