Insurers Must Look Beyond Online Sales To Self Service For Internet Success, G�mez Research Reveals

New consumer study and benchmarking analysis reveals willingness to embrace online
self-servicing of key insurance policy management tasks

May 21, 2002, Waltham, MA — While online sales have so far
yielded disappointing results, a growing number of insurers have begun to recognize modest
success in the realm of customer service, according to a recent consumer research report
published today by G�mez, Inc., the Internet Quality Measurement firm.

The report, Policyholder Self Service: Increasing Awareness
and Driving Adoption, reveals tremendous opportunities and stiff challenges facing
insurance carriers in capitalizing on Internet self-service functionality. Allowing
customers to perform such activities as view coverage levels and track claims online can
help carriers significantly reduce their overall operating expenses as well as extend
agent face-to-face and telephone-based relations. Such functionality also provides agents
additional time to grow their books of business. Among the challenges: generating consumer
awareness, encouraging habitual use through proactive messaging and addressing
agents’ disintermediation concerns.

The report’s publication follows the release of
G�mez’s Q2 Internet Insurance Carrier Scorecard in which Progressive Insurance took
top honors for the sixth consecutive period. GMAC, meanwhile, made its Scorecard debut
with a strong eleventh-place finish among the nineteen firms ranked.

Policyholder Self Service: Increasing Awareness and Driving
Adoption, the fourth in G�mez’s ongoing series of insurance industry research
reports, finds that online users visiting their insurers’ Web offerings frequently
perform self-service activities. “Over a quarter of insured General Web Users have
visited their current insurance companies’ or agents’ Web offerings,” noted
Greg Davies, a G�mez Senior Analyst and report author. “Of this group, nearly half
have attempted to use the Internet to access information on their auto insurance policies
and/or perform customer service tasks.”

Yet, the study indicates that the lion’s share of
online users who attempt online self-service tasks are unable to reach their goals.
“By failing to inform policyholders of what is available and delivering an
unsatisfying online experience, insurers are jeopardizing the success not only of their
present offering but also future Web initiatives,” Davies pointed out. “This
report presents advice for making improvements in both respects.”

Analysis of G�mez’s Q2 Internet Carrier Scorecard
detected a significant uptick in carrier adoption of online self-service functionality. An
increasing number of carriers are allowing customers to perform coverage inquiries, view
coverage levels and make premium inquiries/payments and endorsements through claims
reporting and status tracking. Other Scorecard highlights include:

  • Top-ranked carrier Progressive Insurance continues to
    aggressively invest in improving the self-service functionality, usability and
    online-offline integration of its consumer-facing Web interface.

  • Number-six finisher State Farm Insurance has added life
    insurance to its policyholder self-service interface, enabling customers to view and make
    changes to both their auto and life insurance policies via the Web. State Farm also
    pre-populates relevant customer information in select service transactions, rather than
    requiring online users to manually re-key it.

  • Scorecard newbie GMAC provides online binding of personal
    auto policies in 21 states, automatic enrollment for online access and end-to-end
    endorsement requests via its direct auto sales site,

  • Number-twelve ranked Prudential Insurance beefed up its auto policy
    access by providing enhanced policy change functionality and online premium payment capabilities.

  • Electronic documents are gaining steam industry-wide, as 21%
    of Scorecard carriers — including Esurance and GMAC – provide customers the option
    of going “paperless” with their auto insurance relationships. A growing number
    of carriers have also begun experimenting with financial incentives to increase adoption
    of this cost-saving feature.

Despite the increase in self-service activity, the lion’s
share of consumers’ online insurance behavior still involves purchase-process tasks.
For the foreseeable future, tasks directly related to policy purchases or renewals will
remain the leading types of vehicle insurance-related activities performed online.
“Thus, when seeking to position limited Web-spend for maximum impact, insurers should
keep in mind that the most important tasks to facilitate seamlessly for today’s
online users are those relating to a purchase, such as quotes and applications,”
noted Tim Carpenter, a G�mez research analyst who co-led G�mez’s Scorecard research.

Davies added, “As we know, however, most insurers are
struggling to make their online product distribution initiatives pay off. While we
reassess where the industry is with respect to Web-closed premiums and tracking
online-initiated but offline-closed business, concurrent efforts to migrate select
customer service activities to the Internet offer the prospect of near-term e-commerce success.”

About Gomez

G�mez provides financial services firms and other leading
companies committed to the Internet with competitive intelligence, benchmarking and
expertise that enable effective business prioritization and alignment. Only G�mez
integrates actionable research and applied analytics with performance measurement services
to provide a comprehensive view of the entire customer experience.

G�mezPro provides actionable research and competitive
benchmarking and industry insight to help companies optimize online customer experience
relative to consumer expectations, competitive offerings and alternative distribution
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Contact: Alan Alper (781) 768-2147; [email protected].