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MetLife Brings Services to Web

Customers' offline behavior informs online tactics

Using customers' offline behavior as a guide, MetLife is methodically migrating institutional business product services to the Web. The firm recently launched, to enable dental practices to access MetLife benefit information. And, through its MetLife Retirement and Savings branch, MetLife announced the availability of a new Web site for its 401 (k) institutional clients and their employee participants.

"MetLife's Institutional Business has a broad product portfolio, and we look at e-business as part of an integrated strategy," says Jim Gemus, vice president, e-business and banking, institutional business, MetLife. "The strategy takes that portfolio and matches online functionality with offline, from a service and administration perspectivtive."

Gemus says that research on offline customer service channels, such as call centers, drove MetLife to select which product areas to put online and which services to include. "We look at how our clients and customers use offline services, and, where it makes sense, we put those capabilities online," he says.

Following a pilot program involving 340 participants, was configured to allow dental health providers to access the information most commonly requested through call centers, including plan design, eligibility, claim status and claim detail, according to Steve Paraboschi, assistant vice president, institutional business, MetLife. "To date we've had a lot more feedback than we anticipated," affirming the site's capacity to supply greater ease of access than other existing channels afforded, Paraboschi says. "And that's what we were trying to do: facilitate the providers' interface to MetLife and allow them to concentrate on what they do best."

MetLife's site for 401 (k) plan sponsors and their employees includes such functionality as direct, encrypted access to accounts, and an "account snapshot," giving plan participants access to personal, plan-level information. The site also delivers relevant market-related information for participants.

Among the research that contributed to the site's style and content, says Gemus, "Metlife looked at the top reasons for call center activity and did focus groups of both customers and non-customers to determine what they were looking for."

Gemus says that because research indicated that employee benefit customers prefer quick access to information online, the sites have been designed for a "milk-run" approach. "We don't design for people to stay around," he says. "It's not like we have a deep passion to get them in and out, but we don't want them to stay any longer than they want to."

Gemus says MetLife will continue to focus on Web-enabling institutional products over the coming year and is looking to add outside offerings, such as pet insurance from Veterinary Pet Insurance, certain loan capabilities through GMAC, and a MetLife banking product.

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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