An internet presence is today
accepted as the norm by virtually all life insurers. How
effectively they make use of that presence differs significantly
from one insurer to another, emphasises Customer Respect Group
(CRG), an international research and consulting firm focused on the
way in which companies treat online customers.

In a research report CRG identified
a number of key trends in American consumers’ use of the online
channel as it impacts life insurers. In particular, CRG found that
consumers have a growing desire to research products and services
online and have a strong interest in the cost of life insurance.
The growth of aggregator sites clearly illustrates this interest,
noted CRG.

CRG found that there is a “strong
trend” by life insurers to improve online self-service. However,
many are not keeping up with changing consumer demands and adhere
to the traditional goal of using their websites to direct consumers
towards a consultation with an agent.

“The industry is being torn between
maintaining the agent as the primary customer interface and
providing self-service tools that allow the customer to assume
greater control,” said CRG president Terry Golesworthy. “Customers
are influenced not by life insurance companies but by the
experience they can expect from general web surfing, so expect
greater demand for control.”

But it is also apparent that
insurers should aim to provide the best of both approaches, with
CRG finding that while consumers are more comfortable researching
online, their preference is still to buy in a face-to-face
consultation with an agent or adviser.

CRG put the websites of 23 of the
US’ largest life insurers to the test, measuring their websites’
effectiveness against a set of criteria. Websites were rated using
CRG’s Customer Respect Index (CRI) which has a maximum score of 10.
The CRI has as key criteria:

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Coming out top in CRG’s assessment
was MetLife which scored an 8 on the CRI. CRG noted that MetLife
has made significant and continuous improvements to its website
over the past two years. Average score of the 23 insurers was

Car xhart showing LIFE INSURER WEBSITES: Top 10, score out of 10