Life Insurance Companies Ranked on How They Treat Online Customers in Latest Customer Respect Group Study

Diverging Business Objectives Opens Up an Increasing Range in Ratings

IPSWICH, Mass., June 14, 2010 – The Customer Respect Group, an international research and consulting firm that focuses on how corporations treat their online customers, released findings from its Second Quarter 2010 Online Customer Respect Study of the Life Insurance Industry.

The latest study of industry websites uses a common set of criteria to bring an objective and consistent measure to the analysis of corporate performance from an online customer�s perspective. A directly comparable Customer Respect Index (CRI™) is determined for each of the 23 companies included.

The key categories measured are:

Content: the scope and range of the available content, including the availability and quality of self-service tools, alternative content formats and degree of customer task-focused documentation.

Navigation: the degree to which customers can navigate within the site. The focus is on visibility of critical tasks, site consistency, as well as alternative navigation options such as search.

Dialog: the availability and prominence of options to speak to a company representative. This includes instant help such as chat and telephone, as well as delayed response options through email and access to field agents.

Key Trends

The consumer has demonstrated a growing desire to research products and services online. Of particular interest is the approximate cost of life insurance. The growth of aggregator sites clearly illustrates this interest.

To estimate the cost, the consumer needs to understand the type and amount of insurance for their specific circumstances.

Life Insurance online has, traditionally, been shrouded with a certain amount of mystery; the goal of industry websites has been to direct consumers towards a consultation with a local agent or financial adviser. While this continues to be the case for many sites, there is a strong trend to improve online self-service.

While consumers are more comfortable researching online, the preference is still to buy in consultation with a person.

Key Findings

The industry average CRI was calculated to be 5.33 on the ten-point scale, this represents a slight overall industry improvement since the previous report but hides a growing gap between the top and bottom thirds of the table.

There has been a large increase in the number of interactive calculators, especially for simpler term life insurance. Two-thirds of the companies reviewed provide calculators to estimate the recommended amount of insurance, one in four provides help in choosing the type of insurance and 43% offer cost estimators.

While an agent call remains the preferred �next-step� for the website consumer, there has been an increase in immediate help options available including more prominent �800-numbers�, live chat and instant telephone call backs.

With more immediate dialogue options, there has been a reduction in support for email and 70% of the email sent to companies received no response within a 24-hour period. This has increased from 50% last year.

Site navigation is more likely to be structured around top customer tasks. The more traditional model had been to provide many interlinked materials without clear task flow or objectives.

There has been a slow increase in providing applications and purchase options online. HSBC, Garden State Life and Gerber Life are three examples that offer this option.

Social media has yet to have a significant impact in life insurance, even though over half of the companies have established a presence.

Mobile access is also not a major factor with limited traffic originating from mobile devices. There is little perceived need to provide �smartphone� applications even though most companies are reviewing websites in order to provide a mobile-friendly version.

MetLife has made significant and continuous improvements to its top-rated website over the past two years. It has been the most aggressive company in addressing the consumer�s demand to take control over the life insurance purchase process. It added interactive tools that will allow customers to get instant online quotes with a range of dialogue options to answer questions immediately.

According to Terry Golesworthy, president of The Customer Respect Group, �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. This company�s position on this matter more than anything will predict the functionality of the website. 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�

The Customer Respect Group Services

The Customer Respect Group provides industry benchmarks and competitive research to help organizations maximize the effectiveness of their websites. The solutions include:

  • Web Site Audits — Detailed interpretive company reports, including actionable recommendations based on benchmark analysis, and best practice guidelines and practical customer respect examples.
  • Innovation Reports � focused on the latest trends and innovative online developments within the insurance and other industries including lead generation, customer self-service, social media and content strategies.

About The Customer Respect Group

The Customer Respect Group is an international research and consulting firm that uses its Customer Respect Index and vast experience to help companies improve their treatment of customers online. It provides leadership in the objective and scientific measurement of a customer�s online experience. Many of the largest U.S. companies have already adopted the CRI methodology to improve online customer satisfaction and loyalty. The Customer Respect Group is headquartered in metropolitan Boston.