Report: Web Self-Service Will Be Insurance Industry’s Battleground

Consultants behind a recent report analyzing dozens of insurers’ websites and the qualities that attracted and repelled visitors said in a Thursday webinar that the industry should prioritize self-service capabilities to bring in customers who are increasingly relying on themselves for countless tasks, from researching policies to obtaining quotes.

The report, “Auto Insurers Online Self-Service Report 2012: Leaders and Laggards,” was released by Customer Respect Group (CRG) earlier this week before a Thursday webinar hosted by CRG president Terry Golesworthy.

The report ranked Esurance’s website on top because of content promoting self-service and a search function that was the only one among those analyzed to return reliable, accurate results. CRG looked at 20 websites of major insurers for its report.

“That’s going to be a battleground for the auto insurance industry: it’s going to be about the role of self service,” Golesworthy said.

Today’s Customers Are a ‘Very Impatient’ Group

Industry websites need to take into account that “customers are more in control than they ever have been,” said Mike Hennessy, vice president of marketing at IntelliResponse, a software company focused on customer service.

The report judged an insurer’s quality by performing 35 typical tasks on its website—including researching insurance claims, coverage, policies and quotes—rather than judging them on how eye-catching the website is, according to Golesworthy.

Customers are task-oriented, he said, and largely visit websites with specific goals in mind, like getting car insurance quotes without personal information.

“They’re very impatient. They want to get done what they want to get done and leave,” Golesworthy said. “The customer does not want a pretty website necessarily, or cutting-edge websites. We need to focus much more on being customer-centric.”

Expectations of today’s average customer stem from a tech world ruled by Dell, Apple and Amazon, according to Golesworthy, who added that Amazon is approaching its 18th anniversary.

“Anyone 18 years old and under has not grown up without Amazon—and that’s a critical point here,” he said.

Using websites’ FAQ sections as an example, Golesworthy contrasted Amazon’s customer-centered website design with what he said is the insurance industry’s ineffective approach.

Amazon has a single FAQ section, named “Where’s My Stuff?” he said, while most insurers use FAQs as a “dumping ground” for content that is not covered in other parts of the website.

“Canned FAQs that are completely irrelevant to the situation have a big impact on the customer experience and their interpretation of the entire brand,” he said.

Complex Websites Hurt Customer-Centric Service

One major fault that turns off many customers to the websites of major insurers is the way they are structured, according to the report.

The report’s authors said a web browser posing a simple question like “does my policy cover rental car insurance” could find the answer, sometimes worded in several different ways, in multiple sections of a single website from blogs to videos to learning centers.

Such replications force “the customer to predict where to find that information” and which source to trust on one website, Golesworthy said.

Most insurers’ websites are organized similarly to their corporate structure, which does not translate well for browsers, according to Golesworthy.

“When those websites are developed, there’s a process within the organization that involves several departments,” he said. “It might be that ‘I’m in the sales department, so I need a section.’ It’s a politically dividing job, but that’s not how the customer sees the websites.”

About Ben Zitney
Benjamin Zitney has been covering the auto insurance industry for the past 2.5 years. Before coming to Online Auto Insurance News, he produced an extensive company history of the 30-year-old California Joint Powers Insurance Authority and worked at the Cal State Long Beach Daily Forty-Niner as a reporter, copy editor and news editor.

No comments yet.

Comment on this article