While insurers have certainly ramped up their online offerings and focused on Web customer experience in the past few years in an effort to broaden access to their products and grow consumer appeal, it appears their customers still feel as though they're better serviced through more traditional channels.
A survey released yesterday by eGain Communications Corp., a multi-channel customer service and knowledge management software provider, found that overall customer service performance of leading insurance providers in North America remained flat in 2010 when compared to 2009. eGain's 2010 "State of Customer Service Study" revealed that while insurers excelled at providing good service to their customers in the call center, those results were offset by "below average" or "poor" performance both on their Web sites and via e-mail. Also, there was a noticeable decline in cross-agent service consistency in the past year.
The study evaluated multiple aspects of Web self-service and contact center customer service at 175 enterprises in the United States and Canada, with insurers being among the eight sectors surveyed. The research was conducted using a "mystery shopping" approach, and service performance was measured along multiple dimensions, including choice of communication channels; e-mail response; Web self-service; cross-channel consistency; single-channel (phone) cross-agent consistency; and phone customer service.
Overall, the survey found insurers' service performance to have a "below average" score of 1.8 out of 4.0, which was unchanged from last year. Compounding this was the rating for cross-agent experience, which plummeted from an "above average" score of 2.2 in 2009, to a "below average" score of 1.2 in 2010. However, eGain found disparities across contact center agents in: answers, query handling process, business policy and offers. For example, some agents would cross-sell contextual offers and others would not, thereby passing up revenue generation opportunities. Some agents would answer questions and even provide quotes, while others would transfer the call to another department, or simply direct the caller to the broker channel or the company Web site. The researchers also noted a significant disparity in the quality of agent answers in some instances.
eGain also asserts that the insurance industry has yet to adopt eService best practices. (Last fall, Forrester Research analyst Chad Mitchell blogged about how insurers might go about developing an effective multi-channel distribution strategy.) A whopping 84% of insurers did not send an automatic acknowledgement of e-mail queries, which the firm says is a common best practice that can help set the right expectations and elevate customer experience. Furthermore, 28% of the companies simply did not respond to e-mail queries, ignoring revenue opportunities.
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