Before the economy began its southward spiral, insurers were already improving the Web and multichannel customer experience. In today's economy, however, they have placed a new focus on surpassing the competition by reinforcing the value of the entire chain.

"The economic crisis has placed a renewed spotlight on the value of insurance agents," notes Chad Mitchell, senior analyst with Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc., and author of Forrester's "Trends 2009: Insurance eBusiness and Channel Strategy" report. "In turbulent times, many customers want to connect with another human being. Despite the increase in online insurance research, we know that in-person visits generate higher conversion."

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