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

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Leading Life Insurers Start to Join Online Revolution; Gap between Top and Bottom Grows; Western & Southern First Life Insurance Company to Gain 'Excellent' Rating

The Customer Respect Group, an international research and consulting firm that focuses on how corporations treat and respect their online customers, today released findings from its Third Quarter 2008 Online Customer Respect Study of Life Insurance Industry Websites.

The criteria used to measure websites construct the Customer Respect Index (CRI) and are structured into five sub-indexes; namely, Content, Navigation, Search, Trust, and Dialog. The index reflects best practices, online trends, common practices and developments within the corporate web environment.

Summary

Overall, the Life Insurance industry scored 5.9 on the 10-point scale. This can be viewed against a Cross Industry Benchmark (CIB) average of 6.4. The leading industries in terms of overall industry averages are retail and retail financial services.

The life insurance industry traditionally has scored comparatively low on the CRI. This is not very surprising, given that the web has always been of relatively low direct importance to this industry compared to other industries. This study reaches a similar conclusion, but the study did record a greater range of scores compared to previous studies, illustrating different strategies starting to develop and create differentiation opportunities.

For the first time, however, a life insurance company has scored in the category that constitutes an "Excellent Rating." In addition, two other companies, MetLife and Nationwide, scored marginally below that rating.

The top five websites are:
Company    - CRI

  • Western & Southern Life - 7.7
  • Nationwide - 6.7
  • Metropolitan Life - 6.7
  • New York Life - 6.4
  • Principal Financial - 6.4

What Differentiates the Industry Websites?

The best insurance industry sites are following overall web trends and innovations, applying some of the lessons and techniques that can be seen in other, possibly more dynamic industries.

  • INTERACTIVE AND MORE ENGAGING SITES. The study recorded a strong growth on leading industry sites in the use of tools, calculators and rich media applications.
  • INCREASED SELF-SERVICE is becoming a requirement for research as well as account management and leading websites are embracing this move.
  • CROSS-CHANNEL INTEGRATION. The study also recorded the beginnings of a strategy to bridge the gap between online and offline experiences. Lead generation to agents and brokers has become more critical as website-based research has increased in importance to consumers. Leading companies have also started to extend this process to allow online users to begin the process online with completion offline.

What Was Most Surprising?

  • SPEED OF INNOVATION. The industry has traditionally moved slowly online, so the pace at which the leading companies have been updating their sites has been a pleasant surprise.
  • NOT ENOUGH EMPHASIS ON TRUST. On the negative side, the industry continues to lag behind other industries in the area of overall trust, given the clear message that consumers do not trust online sites. In order for sites to effectively generate good leads for offline business, consumers must be persuaded to provide ever more detailed amounts of personal data. Overall, the sites make limited attempts to provide necessary assurances of security.
  • LACK OF RATE QUOTING. The industry continues to avoid online insurance quotes, trusting that online users will call agents for such information. Other industries such as travel and auto insurance that have adopted this route have seen market-share lost to rate comparison sites and more progressive companies.

A free study briefing book is available from The Customer Respect Group at 978-834-6700 or from the company website at http://www.customerrespect.com/default.asp?hdnFilename=bwlifeq308.htm .

According to Terry Golesworthy, president of The Customer Respect Group, "Life insurance websites are fast moving away from being necessary but non-critical business functions into the primary marketing tool which attracts, educates, sells to and services customers. The growth in website functionality does not come without significant expense, which means we are seeing a radically different pace across the industry. It is critical for the industry to focus on the website to stay competitive as well as fend off nontraditional suppliers."

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Terry Golesworthy
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