A mystery life insurance shopper – call her Alice – bought term coverage for her family recently and was thoroughly stumped.
Filling out her family’s details in online forms in exchange for an estimated monthly premium was easy enough, but the follow up was another, mostly nonexistent, story.
“They can lure you to the website and then they leave you hanging,” said Forrester Research consultant Ellen Carney, who adopted Alice as a pseudonym.
In Alice’s experience, MassMutual scored highest with an overall point total of 66, while New York Life scored lowest with a point total of 30, according to the report which tracked the buying experience from seven life insurers.
Alice rated the seven insures across 11 categories. Here’s what she found:
Under pressure from born-digital agencies free of the high-cost structures weighing down legacy shops, life insurers have sunk millions of dollars into their digital sales channels in anticipation of more online sales.
But the follow up and the integration of human help following a journey that only hours before started on a website remains all over the proverbial map, Carney said.
Insurers give the impression that websites as a sales channel don’t matter all that much in an era when digital sales are expected to increase, said Carney, co-author of a new report on life insurance website sales.
Insurers need to fix their websites, and quickly, said Carney, principal analyst, Digital Business Strategy, at Forrester.
The Follow Up: Emails, Phone Calls, or None at All
Agents followed up with buyers via email, others preferred to call – several times – and still others never bothered to track down prospects like Alice who had initiated a term life purchase online.
“It goes back to no one is holding advisors accountable if you haven’t followed up,” Carney said.
For too long, life insurers underinvested in their digital and website sales channels, and with falling commissions, agents have little or no incentive to chase term life prospects who abandon an online shopping cart.
Give those drawbacks, it’s incumbent on insurers to say, “Holy Cow, we need to better handle this class of customer,” Carney said.
Last year, digital touchpoints influenced 84 percent of all new life insurance sales and that percentage is forecast to rise to 91 percent in 2020, which is a big increase in a relatively short period of time, Carney said.
Insurers must act quickly to fix their websites as a growing number of insurance technology startups are coming after Millennials with digital sales tools and seamless digital user experiences, the report said.
Victim of Pendulum Swings?
Back to Alice.
She was from Ohio, she was 36 years old, had two children and an employed husband, gave her address and listed her primary care physician, all standard fare for insurance companies looking for data on which to return a monthly quote.
A quote came back for $18 a month.
But it wasn’t long before Alice’s digital relationships floundered.
Advisor and agent locators were poorly executed, cross-selling of other relevant services were either limited or absent, information about acceptance and underwriting decisions was missing, and basic help getting the online application complete couldn’t be found, the Forrester report said.
It’s a symptom of where the digital channel resides within the insurer, Carney said.
The pendulum swings from a central digital management platform to embedding the digital experience across channels to moving digital initiatives into operations to moving digital to the marketing side of the house.
“Marketing cares about driving leads and operations cares about saving money,” Carney said.
A rootless, orphaned digital channel is reflected in the buying experience for consumers like Alice who feel like they are riding in the back of a Jeep hopscotching off-road instead of traveling across a smooth Interstate highway.
“Some insurers have a long way to go,” Carney said. “I’m surprised digital teams don’t have whiplash, one minute they are there, another they are over here, my gosh.”
InsuranceNewsNet Senior Writer Cyril Tuohy has covered the financial services industry for more than 15 years. Cyril may be reached at [email protected]
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