If the Website is Designed to Meet the Company Goals – Is that the Same as What the Customer Wants?


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Website usability has been top of the agenda for a decade. Trends and fads come and go and we updated/refresh/re-launch sites to keep ahead of the competition. Sometimes, changes might have more to do with internal boredom than improving the site.

During this time, there has been an ongoing debate in the insurance industry as to the core goal of the website. Insurance companies, especially multi-line companies, have never-ending amounts of content and information and every department is convinced that their content is critical to the organization. There is a constant tooth and nail battle for space on the home page, industry sites have become pack rats, and the growth of content and the lack of focus have contributed to bloated and cluttered sites. Companies are adding education sections, product micro-sites, marketing campaign sites and life-style sections. We now see content hosted on remote social sites such as YouTube and Facebook as well as a growing range of blogs.

Much of the lack of focus comes down to the distribution model challenge. People buy insurance from an agent – that is a fact – to date at least. Companies are desperate to increase the average number of their products a customer owns – it has hung around the 1.1 to 1.2 range for a while. Ipso-facto companies need to increase the dialog between the customer and agent. If the website provides a smooth efficient process to learn, research and buy insurance products, where does that leave the agent?

The flaw in this whole discussion is what does the site visitor want? They come to the site for a reason, to perform some task. Consumers have become more web-savvy, they are less brand-loyal, are being educated to price compare and look around. Look at the recent spate of auto insurance commercial, a large number are now focusing on cost savings from switching carriers. Even State Farm is in the game, no longer the wholesome agent holding your hand, the focus is on how much you can save by switching from GEICO.

The web strategy (and the growing social media challenge) needs to be far more focused on satisfying what the site visitor wants and not around the corporate strategy and objectives. It has never been easier for consumers to move between carriers and if one website is confusing and bloated, there are plenty of others.

Recently, Thrivent Financial for Lutherans reduced the main options on the home page from twelve to four. This was to make the critical visitor tasks more obvious and to improve task completion rates. It forced some content off key paths but it was in the way of what the customer wanted. The expression ‘cannot see the wood for the trees’ springs to mind.

Another major insurer changed their site design based upon an understanding of what objective, they and the customer, had in common. The customer does not come to the website to learn about insurance or your products, they come to solve a problem – ‘what type of insurance is best?’, ‘how much do I need?’ and ‘how much will it cost?’. While product research is part of the process, it is not the objective.

The final and common goal of the process is the application. Completing and submitting an application will likely involve the website, the agent and the call center – but to what degree and where and when transitions happens needs to be under the control of the customer. All too often, web sites measure lead generation as if this is an objective, it is not, and you do not make money from a lead. Allow the website to play a full and active role in helping consumer task completion. This will create better prospects, which ultimately will make the agent more productive.

On this subject, I recently read an excellent paper by Gerry McGovern and Kirsten Zhivago. Gerry is the author of the best-selling book called Killer Web Content and the joint paper is titled “Using your customers’ desired actions to increase your sales”. While not focused on insurance, it does tackle head the issue of customer task focus. It is worth a read and a good paper to help the internal discussion about website purpose. Download from http://www.mcgovernandzhivago.com/

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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