Esurance.com's current advertising campaign emphasizes the fact that their customers can interact with technology when they don't want to talk with people and they can talk with people when they don't want to interact with technology. In a world which is becoming increasingly populated by people who have grown up with the internet always being a part of their lives, their expectations are shaped by being able to get their products or services in any mode they desire.
In addition, at Diamond, we have performed analyses that show a significant amount of online customers abandon their purchases before they finish. I'd bet that Esurance is ready to use either method because it helps to create a better close rate. Rather than have their customer leave without buying -- they can pick up the phone and ask for help. Esurance is smart to turn the need to provide online and on the phone into a benefit.
In addition to the "have it your way" service model, they also provide transparency for the customers when they have an accident. Esurance provides daily pictures so that the customers can see the progress on their repair. Given the very low level of trust between customers and their repair shops, this is a valuable added benefit for many customers. More broadly, this need to deal with customers anyway, anytime, and anywhere they want to is a requirement for today's service expectations. Also, providing transparency helps to make the virtual experience more real. In addition, their visit to the web site ovviates the need for a call to the Esurance call center.
All companies should think carefully about how well they deal online and in the real world. Furthermore, they need to look at how much transparency you provide customers througout the customer experience.