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New York Life Adds Interactive Features to Its Consumer-Facing Web Site

Building on its industry-recognized consumer Web capabilities, New York Life has added interactive and assistive functionality to its consumer-facing Web site.

In keeping with the trends of customer-centricity and interactive collaboration, New York Life has enhanced its consumer Web site, This April the New York-based carrier rolled out capabilities that enable users to rate, share and post comments to articles on the carrier's site. In addition, New York Life ($280 billion in assets under management) deployed VoiceCorp International's (Uppsala, Sweden) ReadSpeaker solution, which enables visually impaired visitors to hear the verbal content of Web pages and download it for later use.

The new Web site functionality raises the bar the carrier set in winning Dalbar's (Boston) service award in 2007 -- the eighth time New York Life has earned that distinction -- and puts its Web site in a category with leading commercial sites. "These features are not exactly ubiquitous in the general Web world, so we think that they continue to keep New York Life very much on the forefront of Web development, and especially within our [financial services] category," says Ken Hittel, VP, corporate Internet, New York Life.

New York Life discovered the ReadSpeaker capability on the International Herald Tribune Web site "and fell in love with it," according to Hittel. "We reached out to [the vendor], decided to work with them and found them very easy to work with."

Hittel professes a long-standing interest in finding ways to provide the disabled with access to New York Life content and services, but he stresses that the ReadSpeaker capability is by no means directed exclusively at the visually impaired.

Support for Everyone

"We like to think of it as an assistive technology that can be beneficial to pretty much anybody who can find a use for it, whether that's someone multitasking and saying, 'I want to listen to this while I'm doing other things,' or the guy taking his nightly run around Central Park who says, 'OK, I've been sitting down with my life insurance agent; I'm going to have to make a decision soon -- let me get to the bottom of the difference between term and permanent insurance,'" Hittel explains. "We're looking for ways to make it easier for people to hear our message and engage with us."

According to Hittel, New York Life began working on the new Web site functionality in late 2007. Apart from the ReadSpeaker solution, all the interactive capabilities were built in-house, he relates.

Hittel notes that New York Life's decision to roll out the new interactive online capabilities was driven in part by feedback from users, who indicated a desire for two-way communications on the site. A more general trend of consumer demand for openness and interactivity also drove the carrier to enter new online territory, he adds.

"To some extent you take a sort of cynical point of view and say, 'Oh, my goodness! We're opening the door to Lord-knows-what; what are people going to say to us and about us?'" Hittel comments. "But so far the experience has been extraordinarily positive. The comments have been intelligent, well-thought-out and to the point -- we're not getting abusive types of comments."

Feedback Management

Hittel says New York Life hopes to make the site even more interactive in the future by actually responding to user-posted comments on the site. The carrier also plans to incorporate online communications into an enterprise feedback management scheme, he says.

"That is the direction that we expect to continue to move in, but we don't have a formal process set up today to share this throughout the enterprise," Hittel relates. "I hope we will be able to formalize this and socialize much of this new knowledge and insight throughout the corporation."

Anthony O'Donnell has covered technology in the insurance industry since 2000, when he joined the editorial staff of Insurance & Technology. As an editor and reporter for I&T and the InformationWeek Financial Services of TechWeb he has written on all areas of information ... View Full Bio

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