Life Insurance Coverage Calculators Not Up To The Task


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In our recent survey of coverage calculators on 22 leading US Life Insurance websites, we looked at how well these organizations help consumers answer the question ‘How Much Life Insurance Do I Need?’.

Among the leaders were State Farm, USAA, Allstate, and Liberty Mutual.
But although these sites (and a few more) showed the good side of the industry, we uncovered a lot of issues.

The problems ranged from sites not having calculators at all, to poor escalation facilities, unsatisfactory help text, confusing language, huge differences in results for similar inputs, and variation in input criteria. In fact, nobody seems to agree on what the question ‘How Much Insurance Do I Need?’ means, never mind the answer.

Issues with Life Insurance Calculators

Looking at the broad picture, too many companies are not supporting tasks but instead adding content and tools incoherently. (Our recent ‘Auto Insurers Online Self-Service Report 2012: Leaders and Laggards’ found the same problem troubling consumers on Auto Insurance sites.)

The absence of a task management approach had various symptoms.

The first was that finding links to calculators was a hit-and-miss exercise. On some sites, links were found on life insurance main pages but not on individual product pages; on others, they were relegated to sidebars while less important content took center stage.

Next, once consumers found the calculators (they were present on 15 of the 22 sites—7 neglected to support one of the most fundamental tasks for people in research mode), the problem typically became one of hitting dead ends.

65% of sites with calculators did not offer a clear ‘next step’ call to action—no prominent ‘find an agent’ button, no phone number, no guidance at all about what to do next. And on sites that also offered quote engines, some had no links between the two tools.

All of these problems show that tools are regarded too much as standalone items, and not as a step (albeit an important one) in a process. Content is created by disconnected teams, tools are developed or bought in, and sites are managed by departments, each with their own priorities and needs.

This lack of co-ordination between departments and managers is putting obstacles in the way of consumers. Or are companies just hesitant about providing the best online experience for business reasons? It may be that the calculator is not that easy to find because the agent support team fears that consumers won’t get in touch with reps if they can do all the research themselves.

Or perhaps calculators are not easy to use because companies feel that agents should use them on behalf of consumers; they were never meant to be used by the ordinary man or woman in the street.

But companies that are providing sub-standard experiences for consumers trying to complete this task (and others) are trying to hold back the unstoppable rising tide of expectation. It is clear that people want to take control of the research process. Dead ends will cause them not to call an agent in a happy mood, but go elsewhere or at best pick up the phone with annoyance at having to switch from their preferred channel.

The solution is to manage tasks, not content or tools.

Insurers need to accept that consumers want to inform themselves and should work out how to fully support this research process. Companies should find out what the key tasks for their consumers are and manage these top tasks continuously.

This process seems to have already started in some companies. USAA and Allstate have integrated the calculator and quote tools, and State Farm has made it easy to move from one tool to the other. Links are prominent on many pages and the whole experience is one of coherence and customer-centric thinking and design.

‘Task managers’—with no deparmental allegiances—should be empowered to give consumers what they need, and act as internal advocates for them. These managers could ensure, for example, that links to start the top tasks are prominent on all relevant pages; that related tasks are linked or integrated; and that the appropriate escalation methods are available at all times.

As expectations rise among consumers, companies have to turn their websites around from being structured around (and managed by) departments to being focused tightly on the needs of current and future customers.

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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