Economy

All’s not well for online customers in health insurance sector

James Thomson /

insurance-online_200Health insurance is an industry that has become dominated by comparison websites such as iSelect. As such, you would expect the players in this sector to be extremely internet savvy and perfectly placed to meet the expectations of online customers.

But as the latest Customer Experience Industry Benchmark report on the health insurance sector shows, this isn’t the case.

The Index, compiled by customer experience research firm Global Reviews for SmartCompany, shows the majority of providers are simply failing to meet the expectations of online customers and incredibly, one of their real weak points is product comparison functions.

The Benchmark, which appears every month in SmartCompany, measures the online customer experience by examining a website’s content, features and functionality. Typically more than 400 individual criteria are evaluated.

Important criteria for health insurance includes the presentation of content such as insurance plans and explanatory information, the ease with which users can join a fund, contact details and the, interestingly for a web purchase, whether the company “shares the values” of the user.

The end result is an Index score, which is presented as a percentage. A website with a score of below 55% is considered to have failed to meet customer expectations; a score between 55-68% is considered to have met expectations; a website with 68-83% has exceeded expectation; and anything above 83% is marked as outstanding.

Top ranking in the sector went to AHM, with a ranking of 60.7%, just in front of NIB with a score of 59.5% and HCF with a rating of 57.6%.

Paul Moorehead, senior client advisor at Global Reviews, says while there are only 5% separating the best in the sector from the worst, average scores suggest the sector’s big players have plenty of room to improve.

“We saw average scores across the industry around building trust with customers,” Moorehead says.

“And while a handful of big players in the industry are providing great tools, product comparison is not meeting customer expectations at a low average of 32%.”

The biggest area for improvement would appear to be around providing support and guidance for customers who want to know more about the products on offer, or who needs further assistance.

While the health insurance sector received above-average marks for the way product benefits were outlined on the home page, the industry scored just 38% when it came to providing adequate contact and support information.

Moorehead also pointed out limited use of FAQ’s or “Help” to assist customers with general questions and says the sector is yet to move into the area of “live” customer help online.

“For customers wanting an immediate answer to a specific question, the industry shows a mixture of success around ‘click to call’ or ‘call me back’ functions, but hasn’t moved into the online chat space.”

Top five tips:

1. Moorehead says companies need to work harder to distinguish themselves from their competitors by building trust with customers – sharing the values of your provider is particularly important in the health insurance space.

2. Improvements need to be made around product comparison tools to assist customers differentiate products and compare differences. “The tools must meet their needs and help with decision-making, while enabling more flexibility for customers to compare products,” Moorehead says.

3. Providers should be proactive by supplying “take-away” information and tools to assist customers make decisions, so consideration is not lost after they leave the site.

4. Moorehead says companies must do more to provide adequate online member services and promote these as part of the value proposition. “These are considered by prospective customers for future interaction and ease of claiming.”

5. Companies should do more to set customer expectations and requirements before beginning the online application processes.

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James Thomson

James was the editor and publisher of SmartCompany and LeadingCompany for five years. He is now the Australian Financial Review's companies & markets editor, and a former BRW editor.

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