Consumers are becoming more difficult to satisfy but insurance companies are rising to the challenge, suggests new research.

According to the General Insurance Market Research Association (GIMRA), the insurance-buying public has become more demanding in most areas of service, but 86% of claimants said expectations were being met or exceeded.

This is a two per cent increase on the previous year, when 84% of respondents felt that insurers were up to scratch.

GIMRA chairwoman Pardeep Singh said: "The industry is doing well at hitting a constantly moving target because expectations are rising all the time."

One area that did meet with the public's disapproval was the increasing trend for insurers to replace or repair goods using nominated suppliers. Over a third (37%) of those receiving replacement goods and 41% receiving repairs said they would have preferred to receive a cheque.

Further findings of the research include:
- 70% of claimants expected their claim to be settled within two to four weeks
- 86% of customers said they were likely to stay with their existing insurance provider (a two per cent decrease on the previous year).

Among the leading 15 insurers taking part in the study were Allianz Cornhill, Axa, Norwich Union, Zurich and Royal & SunAlliance.

A total of 3,000 buildings and

contents claimants were questioned during the summer of 1999