Is Allstate's 'Claim Satisfaction Guarantee' the real deal?

When you're dissatisfied with a product, you'll probably want the company you purchased it from to pay you back. This is common practice with businesses that offer tangible products like clothing or electronics, as long as you return them. But compensating unsatisfied customers is less common with businesses offering services -- like auto insurance companies.
Allstate is testing a new program that it claims will allow dissatisfied customers to get a refund of sorts if they're dissatisfied with their experience in filing a claim. Currently available in Georgia, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio, its "Claim Satisfaction Guarantee" program maintains that it will compensate customers in the form of a credit to their policies if they feel Allstate's auto insurance claims services aren't up to par. In other words, customers get a premium refund if they had any problems with the claims process. Allstate customers in the three test states automatically receive this guarantee on their standard auto policies at no additional cost, according to Allstate's website.
According to Allstate, the policy credit will be equal to the premium for that policy period. To qualify for the refund, customers must:
  • Notify the company, in writing, of their dissatisfaction within 180 days of the incident that triggered the claim.
  • Have an in-force policy on the date of the covered loss.
  • Have received a payment from the company on behalf of the covered loss.
  • Have not previously received a credit or payment under the Claim Satisfaction Guarantee in connection with the covered loss.
  • Have not already received a credit or payment under the Claim Satisfaction Guarantee in connection with another covered loss that occurred during the same policy period involving the same vehicle.
In good hands?
Allstate's Claim Satisfaction Guarantee might sound like a good deal, but it has received some criticism. For example, Michigan accident lawyer Steven Gursten wrote on his blog that customers should not be fooled by Allstate's "touchy feely" promise.
First of all, Gursten points out, the guarantee does not actually get customers their money back. Instead, they get a credit for future premiums. However, Allstate's terms and conditions do state that if the credit amount (which is based on what the customer paid for the current coverage period) is more than the premium for the next policy period, customers will get the remainder in the form of a check.
In addition, according to Gursten, Allstate has limited the number of satisfaction guarantee refunds a customer can get to one per policy period. If a customer manages to successfully complain to Allstate after an auto accident, he or she won't be able get another satisfaction guarantee credit during the policy period -- which could be six months to a year long.
Gursten also argues that Allstate has received a lot of recent criticism lately -- for using software to "low ball" claims settlements, for swaying customers from hiring accident injury lawyers and for targeting doctors who attempt to advocate for their patients.  This program, he argues, is likely a way for the company to save face.

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