Total Loss Insurance

Reimbursing customers in ways they consider fair and reasonable

Case Study in a Tweet


#customer experience #behavioral science (decision-making)

Project Details

Allstate Insurance Corporation

Client Description

An insurance company that offers a full range of products, including protection for vehicles


Collaborated with a UX Designer

My Role

Lead researcher (contract) - planned and conducted all user research

Project Timeline 

3 Months


Research report with recommendations, Appendix: techniques for influencing expectation and perception (cognitive biases and heuristics), Video highlight reels with multiple insights tagged per clip


The focus of this project was a specific type of insurance claim called a “total loss”

When an insured vehicle is damaged so severely that the cost of repair is greater than the vehicle’s value, it is considered a “total loss”, and customers are offered a cash settlement instead of having their vehicle repaired. These customers are often dissatisfied with the amount of money offered for their unrepairable vehicles.

Customer’s reactions to a total loss is a significant issue for Allstate:


The Ask

The Claims E-Commerce Program Team and Automation & AI Strategy Team asked my UX Team to:







Claims Process



Primary Solution

Secondary Solutions


Metrics improved

Positively shifted the perception of the Total Loss process

Based on customer satisfaction surveys since the implementation of key recommendations, the following trends were observed:

From ➜ To

Unfair ➜ Fair

Untrustworthy ➜ Trustworthy

Arbitrary ➜ Reasonable

Confusing ➜ Clear

Opaque ➜ Transparent



Our stakeholders already had areas of inquiry they wanted to explore, identified some of the main customer pain points, and a few hypotheses of solutions. We took these ideas and put them into the research backlog for this project, combining them with new research opportunities the product team developed.

Our team was conflicted about how to best solve customer problems 

The primary area of disagreement was whether or not notifying customers about the depreciation of their vehicle before any claim was filed would be beneficial, harmful, or have no effect at all. This would be a main area to focus on later in the project.

Hypotheses uncovered during the kickoff - will need to validate/invalidate in the future

At kickoff, the stakeholders wanted to test whether communicating a customer’s depreciating vehicle value would be advantageous. This was one of many hypotheses we captured and would later test.

Review of Previous Internal Research

At such a large company such as Allstate, it's often the case that relevant research was already conducted. We didn't want to duplicate efforts and waste time rediscovering what was already known, so we reached out to other departments until we found a very useful study that unearthed how current Allstate customers feel about their claims process experience. We were able to leverage a large survey to identify satisfaction levels at a scale that our team otherwise wouldn't have had the capability to do ourselves. We were able to use this survey as a jumping off point for this project.

What was done

Before conducting our own research, we leveraged what others at Allstate already knew and had learned. I reviewed a Customer satisfaction survey (from the Marketing Analytics & Research Administration) that revealed why, and to what degree people were displeased with their total loss experience.

I extracted relevant information from the survey and confirmed that indeed, the amount of the settlement was the primary problem customers had. Customers were also dissatisfied with the way in which Allstate explained how their vehicle's value was calculated. Other Issues that scored low customer satisfaction ratings revealed themes I would explore further using other research methods later on in the project.

Why it was done

At the beginning of the project, the stakeholder's hypothesis was that the primary problem customers had with a claim was the amount of money offered for their unrepairable vehicle - known as the settlement. While this seemed likely, I wanted to verify we were focusing on the right problem and not overlooking potentially ripe areas for improvement. Out team also wanted to balance the quality of the claims experience (journey) with the satisfaction of the settlement (destination).

What previous research was used

What I learned

Expectations of how long things should take and how much something is worth are relative, and these perceptions can be shifted by helping shape initial expectations.

The prior research I found contained useful graphs that contained irrelevant data for this project and was difficult to read. I reformatted the research results into a more useful and readable format in order to draw new insights and knowledge from the data. 

Transition to the next step: Now that we learned that money offered in a settlement was the most important issue, followed by how that amount of money was communicated, our team knew what issues to focus on and prioritize moving forward. We also identified secondary and tertiary issues in the claims process, that if addressed, would mitigate problems customers had and hopefully reduce churn of customers who defect after a claim - which is a large problem in the inurance industry.

Secondary (Desk) Research

While the previous survey leveraged Allstate's internal findings, our team wanted to take the research one step further, developing a more holistic perspective based on industry-wide assessments. This would allow us to determine if we missed anything on our own, bring greater depth and clarity to our understanding, and validate our findings.

What was done

To put Allstate’s finding into a broader perspective and provide context, I looked beyond the company to the entire auto insurance industry. 


Transition to the next step: With a firm understanding of how Allstates issues relate to global issues in the insurance industry, we could move forward with confidence, knowing how our small study connected to the bigger picture.

End-to-End Claims Process 

With a wealth of quantitative data under our belts, we decided to pair that knowledge with qualitative insights in a mixed-methods approach. Taking the areas of inquiry and issues uncovered in the survey and market research, our team came up with questions we still had about the customer's journey and experience during a claim. We spoke to many customers about what mattered most to them and how they were affected by events in their claim experience. These interviews provided a more detailed and grounded account of what it really feels like to go through a claim and/or total loss.

What was done

I spoke to ten people who were currently going through a total loss or recently experienced one within the last six months. A nuanced, first-hand view of how insured customers experience the Total Loss claims process emerged, and revealed new pain points and opportunities while enriching the understanding of previously identified themes.


Customers expect assistance and status updates throughout their insurance claim experience. The importance of individual steps is contextual, and customers should be guided through each one.

I spoke remotely with interview participants about their experiences with their most recent vehicle insurance claim - some participants were with Allstate while others were customers of other insurance carriers.

Transition to the next step: Interviewing participants fleshed out the primary, secondary, and tertiary issues revealed in the survey. We were able to combine quantitative questionnaire results with rich qualitative findings, resulting in a true mixed methods approach - triangulating the truth.

Prototypes: Valuation Reactions

Taking what we learned up to this point, we built prototypes that embodied our hypothesis of what improved our customer's perceptions, attitudes, and behavior. We tested several prototypes, each of which focused on different stages of the claims process as we experimented with different types of content and ways to communicate that content to users. We learned what resonated with users, what impacted their behavior, and what led to greater satisfaction. 

What was done

We then developed and presented concepts in order to understand how people react to valuation at various times in their insurance journey, and how they develop a perspective on their vehicle’s value. We talked to five individuals who experienced a total loss within the last six months, or were currently going through a total loss. We showed them non-interactive mockups of a valuation at quote, renewal, and first notice of loss (FNOL).

Scenarios tested


Based on reactions and comments from participants, I identified elements from each stimulus that were most successful at informing participants enough to feel confident that they were being offered a fair value for their vehicle without being overwhelmed or confused.

When condition and valuation are introduced into existing touchpoints (such as quote or renewal) will alter how customers behave in various ways that are difficult to predict.

The prototypes shown to participants were customized to show the participant's vehicle and estimated valuation range. This made it more realistic for participants to react to and made it feel as if their vehicle was actually being evaluated. This approach yielded more authentic responses than would have been possible otherwise.

Transition to the next step: Interacting with prototypes unearthed both attitudinal and behavioral insights - we learned how to best communicate cash value offerings and communicate and frame them in a way that were more desirable and understandable.


Key Takeaways and Recommendations


Main Recommendation


Metrics improved

Shift the perception (sentiment) of the Total Loss process

Based on customer satisfaction surveys since the implementation of key recommendations, the following trends were observed:

From ➜ To

Unfair ➜ Fair

Untrustworthy ➜ Trustworthy

Arbitrary ➜ Reasonable

Confusing ➜ Clear

Opaque ➜ Transparent