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:
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 5.33.