Research firm Celent in a new report notes that life insurance and annuity Web sites fall short in offering customers self-service opportunities on their Web sites.

It has only been in the last few years that life insurers have started offering service experience options beyond a call center or regular mail to customers, the firm says. Until recently, few life insurers offered any kind of self-service on their Web sites or offered mobile apps or mobile-enabled web sites.

"The time is now for insurers to adopt a forward-looking perspective," said Karen Monks, an analyst with Celent's Insurance practice and author of the report. "Insurers should focus on ensuring their systems are capable of multichannel delivery and creating real digital relationships defined by client loyalty.”

Online service requires integrating mobile, Web, and call center platforms and

keeping all the channels in sync with new products and state regulations, Monks said. “It's not a small endeavor, but it's an imperative," she said.

In the report, Celent examines how aggressively the life insurer segment is pursuing customer self-service on the Internet, through a review of the top 50 life individual retail life insurance and annuity product Web sites. The report looks at a customer's ability to perform more than three dozen self-service functions.

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