Insurance firm Hiscox relaunched its UK website at the beginning of the month, with the aim of simplifying the company’s online offering.

As well as providing general information about the firm, the Hiscox UK site allows customers to apply for insurance quotes and buy policies online. Providing complex financial products online can be a challenge, so I’ve been seeing how Hiscox performs in this area…

Hiscox homepage

Homepage / navigation

The homepage (shown above) is well laid put, and provides clear links to the various sections of the site. I’ve come to the site to get a home insurance quote, and I can see links to this in the top navigation bar, as well as a link to go straight to a quote just above the fold.

Clicking on the quote link opens up the application form in a new window, which seems unnecessary, and is something that some web users may not like.

Also, while the custom at the moment seems to be to warn users that links open a new browser window, it takes you by surprise on the Hiscox site.

The quote process

The challenge with presenting any financial product online is to balance providing the information that is necessary to help users complete their application online without swamping them with too much detail.

A page filled with lots of text outlining terms and conditions could instantly deter possible applicants, and Hiscox does deal with this well, with a simple start page for home insurance quotes:

Hiscox quote page

One potential source of friction in the application process is entering your occupation. This is easy enough if you are a teacher, a postman, but if you have a job that doesn’t quite fit into any pre-defined categories, then this can be a problem.

Customers run the risk of invalidating their insurance if
occupation details are incorrect, so users will have concerns about this part of the process. A survey from 2006 even cited this as the main reason for quote abandonment.

Hiscox does at least address this issue, and allows users to type in their occupation in the box provided:

It also provided essential information on eligibility via a link which opens a small pop-up window and therefore doesn’t take customers away from the quote form:

Setting expectations

Hiscox could do a better job of setting customer expectations before they embark on the quote process, such as explaining how long the process will take, and the information they will need to make the application.

With the phrase ‘quote and buy’ on the call to action button for applications, the site gives the impression that the whole process can be conducted online, as you would with car insurance, for instance.

However, you only discover in the final step of the online quote process that it is necessary to wait for a Hiscox Underwriter to contact you to discuss your application, and that, even then, they may not be able to give you an immediate decision.

There is a number to call and talk to an underwriter straight away, but this should have been made clear at the beginning of the online quote process, not right at the end.

Form-filling / support

Data entry is easy enough, the postcode look-up feature makes address entry easier, and thanks to tick boxes and drop-downs, there isn’t too much typing to be done to complete the application.

Hiscox provides some useful information to help customers on questions where they may have some doubts about what to enter, such as these questions about the cost of rebuilding and value of contents to insure:

Indeed, support is good throughout, and a clear contact number at the top of the quote screen provides customers with an outlet for any queries they cannot find answers to on the website.

Also, you get a quote very quickly, on the third step of the process, something which can be achieved in just a couple of minutes.

At this point in the process, there is a fair amount of legal and administrative information to convey to customers, and Hiscox has placed this below the fold, and below the two call to action buttons, so this could easily be missed by customers.

All you see above the fold is the total quote amount and the options to compare quotes or proceed, there aren’t too many clues that links to key policy information and the full policy document are provided below:

Hiscox quote summary page

The compare feature is a useful sales tool, allowing customers to compare their Hiscox quote against their current insurer or competitors. It doesn’t compare prices though, just features: 

Hiscox compare quotes

After this screen, there are four further steps in the process, which include confirmation of quote details, entering a contact number, and declaring that various details are correct.

Conclusion

For comparison, I tried to get a home insurance quote on two other sites, Aviva and More Than, and the the Hiscox quote process is easier than both, to the point where you get the quote at least.

Aviva had a longer process, and couldn’t give me a quote in the end, though I entered the same details on the other two sites and received a quote. Though form-filling on More Than was more time consuming than Hiscox, in did have one advantage; you could actually buy the quote online rather than having to wait for a call.

Perhaps Hiscox has very good reasons for not allowing customers to complete the entire process online, but customers need to know things like this before they begin.

Apart from the annoyance of finding out that you cannot buy the policy
online only at the end of the process, the new Hiscox site is well designed and usable, making it easy for customers to find what they want and get a quote.