Broker-dealers and other financial services companies have upped the ante on customer service, and now the insurance industry must follow suit if it intends to remain competitive, according to Michael Keeler, SVP and director of individual life operations at The Hartford. In an address at the LOMA Policyholder Service Seminar in Orlando, Fla., Keeler explained that his company remains committed to improving service despite financial pressures.

"Service is becoming a key factor for consumers and financial professionals when they decide which life insurance company to do business with. Life insurers that can consistently deliver higher levels of service have a significant advantage and stand to increase their market share as a result," he said.

The company has made extensive upgrades to its systems and adjusted its management practices to promote a high level of service, earning DALBAR’s Life Insurance Service Award since its introduction in 2001. Keeler attributed his company’s success in providing quality service to its effort to engrain a customer-focused philosophy internally.

"Hartford Life won its first DALBAR Award by looking at things differently, from top to bottom. Quality service has become part of what defines us as a company, it's part of our DNA."

The Hartford now offers 24/7 service over the Internet and has used technology to image insurance applications, digitally record calls, aggregate customer information and provide hypothetical illustrations for life insurance applications.

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