An Offer You Can’t Refuse or One You Can’t Understand?


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Insurance as a Second Language

Are your words hurting website usability

Are consumers ready to buy insurance online? The jury is out on that. However, when it comes to consumers wanting to research insurance options online, there is no doubt. Studies indicate that the Web is the first stop for many consumers. While industry websites have improved considerably since we started benchmarking the industry nine years ago, customer expectations are ever more demanding. One big disconnect between the Web team and content providers are the actual words on the site. Content that is hard to understand is just as likely to lead to site abandonment as is bad navigation. Work has focused on getting consumers to the right page. But once consumers are there, do they understand?

Insurance is a difficult subject, and some insurers have long considered complex content as necessary and even beneficial. Complete understanding hardly creates the pressing need to speak with a professional who can identify and explain the best products. Now that consumers visit multiple sites, clarity is more important; and while connection with an agent remains a critical part of the selling process, poor content may eliminate the call.

With this in mind, we asked one of our technology partners, Visible Thread, to analyze the content from 19 major insurers.

Tests were conducted on 100 Web pages on four indices: readability, passive language, long sentences and complex language. The key findings from the study were as follows:

  • On readability, just two carriers were rated “acceptable” (based upon the Flesch Reading Ease index). The carriers were Mutual of Omaha and Liberty Mutual. The majority of insurers write at a high school upperclassman level or higher, with one insurer only comprehensible at the post-graduate level. The average industry score was 40, considered “difficult.”
  • Long sentences, while perfectly fine in context, can create comprehension difficulties. The percentage of sentences more than 25 words in length was recorded. This metric was 4.2% for both Nationwide and Mutual of Omaha, and up to 19.1% for Mass Mutual. Nationwide Insurance maintains the shortest average sentence length at eight words, while State Farm and Farmers both average fifteen words.
  • Complex language is the density of complex words/phrases relative to the total word count. AXA-Equitable and Principal Financial were most complex, while Progressive and Thrivent Financial scored least complex.
  • Passive language can reduce clarity and strength, creating ambiguity. This is used most often by State Farm and Northwestern Mutual and least often by Nationwide Insurance and Liberty Mutual.

When indices were combined, best-performing sites included Mutual of Omaha, Liberty Mutual, Nationwide Insurance and USAA. Sites needing further review included Northwestern Mutual, AXA Equitable, MassMutual and Farmers Insurance.

This was a snap analysis, an indication of whether wording presents a potential problem. Content in the industry often has the fingerprints of legal and compliance all over it, but it is critical that we understand the limited patience of the consumer. Consumers want and expect a multi-channel experience, which includes call centers, agents and self-serve online properties. The failure of one channel can be a death knell for the entire process. It is critical for content to engage and educate, and plain language is part of the requirement.

While such an analysis can never truly judge the written word, this one creates objective metrics and focuses efforts. With sites containing thousands of pages — some obsolete — Web teams need to target pages that reduce customer satisfaction and usability as much as they target broken links or poor design.

Click here to get the results from the Insurance Language Study

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Terry Golesworthy
As the president of The Customer Respect Group for 7 years, I focus on the online experience of consumers. Online experience has always been bigger than the company website, from the response to email to integration to other offline channels. It has now grown to include social media.


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