Putting the Web to Work

Progressive tops list of insurer online self-service sites.

What are insurers doing right with their websites? Companies trying to build more online services–like claims and bill payment–to match consumer habits could look to U.S. auto insurer Progressive for some advice.

The insurer is leading the way in online services, according to Forrester’s 2010 Auto Insurance Secure Site Rankings. Insurers could save up to an estimated $200,000 (US) by offering online self-service options–an alternative to call centres–for clients, according to the consulting group, which singles out who’s giving self-service clients what they want in the inaugural survey.

Forrester assessed the websites of four major U.S.-based insurers–including Progressive, GEICO, State Farm, and Allstate–ranking them for their user experience and functionality. Among their criteria, the survey looked several questions: how easy is it to set up an account, pay a bill, or file a claim online? And, how secure is the transaction?

Progressive edged out the others, scoring 82 overall on the criteria scale, well above the average  score of 71. GEICO followed at 79, while Allstate and State Farm earned scores of 74 and 50, respectively.

Self-service best practices

What made the difference? The top sites for user experience–Progressive and GEICO–achieved consumer goals, making the task easy, according to the Forrester study, released June 14. That means clear, simple to use menus that let policyholders or new clients manage their policies, bills and claims.

Good, speedy navigation is also key, as is a clean, readable website layout, and the assurance–and proof–of security and privacy.

Making service mobile

On the content and functionality front, Progressive and GEICO shared the top spot again by offering more than one payment option, including online payment, electronic funds transfer and in-person payment. Giving them more claims options–such as renting a car, making an appointment with an auto shop and tracking their claims progress–also put all the top insurers ahead. What’s more, all the insurers offered online functionality through mobile devices, like GEICO’s iPhone Glovebox application.

“Though only 2% of US online insurance owners pay their bill with their mobile phone, insurers believe that the mobile Web is a key channel to acquire Gen X and Y customers,” the survey report states.

Leading sites also repeatedly offered site users customer service help on every page, giving them options ranging from a toll-free number, agent locator or online chat, as well as ways to manage their personal information.

Acknowledging agents and brokers

They also highlighted their broker and agent partners–“Allstate and State Farm connect online self-service to the value of their agent channel with a picture and contact information of the agent on the Web site,” the study notes–an acknowledgement that most U.S. consumers still buy their insurance through an agent or broker.

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