State Farm Insurance : Letting cover lapse
Poor maintenance of self-service contact options risks more calls and less custom.
State Farm Insurance, the US’s biggest personal insurer, uses an Ask Us self-service option on its Contact page to help enquirers find information on the site without needing recourse to direct e-mail or telephone. Users are asked to type in a question and are then given options to pursue.
Questions to do with health or disability insurance (for example, ‘Can I buy health insurance at age 64?’) lead to an answer page offering links to an agent finder (to buy) or product information. However, the latter produces a ‘document not found’ error on a page that is clearly from an earlier version of the site template. Advice is given to try clicking on one of the navigation links at the top or bottom of the page, but those at the top are not working. The bottom links are active and following ‘insurance’ leads to a page on the current site which includes a Health and Disability panel. The home page, to which enquirers are offered a more prominent link, has no featured Health and Disability information.
Self-service contact options are an established way of using a website to minimise the volume of more-costly-to-handle direct enquiries, particularly in the early fact-finding stages of a user’s research. State Farm’s Ask Us feature is a variation on the FAQ (frequently asked question) device, picking up on key words that questioners type in. To be effective, though, it needs to connect reliably back into information on the site.
On the whole State Farm manages this well, but has let its cover lapse in an area, health and disability insurance, where it is likely to attract plenty of questions. Its own ‘insurance’, an error page suggesting a way round the glitch, is also flawed: it looks out of synch with the rest of the site and two of the three alternative avenues it offers are dead ends. For want of routine maintenance or checking, the result is likely to be a call it didn’t want – and shouldn’t have – to take or even the loss of business it never knew it might get.http://www.statefarm.com
First published on 07 December, 2006