Customer Connectivity Confounds Carriers
Wayne Umland | January 12, 2016
Connectivity…portals…workbench…UI…What’s the difference? Invariably, technology conversations turn to addressing customer engagement using one of these terms, but it’s all about customer connectivity. And when you dig into this subject, connectivity means many things to different people depending on whether you are a carrier, a customer, an agent or a vendor. The real issue, after all, is what information, access and transactional capabilities do we provide our customers to satisfy different needs and issues.
Portals started to emerge in the early 2000s when we began to see the introduction of agent portals or carrier portals. Back then, portals, or connectivity, was simply a means to access information. Transactional capabilities were few and far between.
Early on, vendor solutions focused on agents, customers or internal groups such as underwriters. Siloed functionality was the norm and specific solutions were designed, developed and marketed for each constituency.
Between then and now, technology has changed the way our customers handle their business needs, whether shopping, reserving hotel rooms or airline tickets, banking and, yes, insurance. Doing business on their terms is critical. Silos don’t really exist anymore. The lines between these separate silos, based on audience, have blurred and become porous.
Isn’t this connectivity and view of information and functionality really just different based on the role of the user? Personal lines carriers have led the way and we should all take notice of what they have built and how their customers use the tools. Those carriers have created facilities for their customers to receive policies and bills electronically, review their policies, print ID cards, pay bills, report claims, and request endorsements.
We have to assume these same customers want to handle their commercial insurance the same way. Small commercial writers already anticipate this and are starting to move in that direction. After all, the small business owner is too busy running his company to take time out and meet with an agent. We need to provide an easy way for him/her to manage insurance. Large commercial customers are sure to follow.
Personal lines and commercial lines carriers with customer connectivity have built functionality to support online app submission, quick quote, full quote, e-signature and straight-through processing, in addition to bill payment, claim reporting, and ID card printing. Providing these capabilities has become table-stakes; customers expect this. The challenge now is to determine what additional value-add and informational features can be provided to make it easier for customers to do business with the carrier.
Today, the capability of a solution vendor to provide role- and rules-based connectivity for customers and constituencies as an integrated part of their policy administration solution is becoming a key consideration when choosing a new insurance system or replacing a legacy solution.
Are there concerns or issues? Sure. The argument has always been that commercial insurance is too complex for people to buy or deal with online. Well, that’s not going to stop people from doing it, so the industry needs to connect with the customer online and in addition to quoting or selling a policy, insurers need to help pick the right product with appropriate limits and coverages.
Taking care of current customers is obviously critical, but how about prospects? How many people don’t shop online when looking for a product? They research brands, specifications and price online, as well as read customer reviews. Companies that provide a means to research, compare, and purchase products will win.
One of the biggest challenges insurers face is what the app or online presence will look like. Insurers sell complicated, regulated products, but the buyers don’t want to have to scroll down and navigate through crowded or multiple screens. Carriers need to present information cleanly, clearly, and intuitively. The world is full of apps and websites that capture attention quickly, provide fast precise information or links to details and if their websites, apps or portals don’t deliver like Amazon or Google Maps for example, no one will use them. If it takes more than three clicks for a customer to get where he wants, you’ll lose him.
Don’t forget, agents are customers, too. Captive agents use their employer’s tools and services; independent agents have choices. They, like the buyers of insurance products, want online capabilities from carriers for similar and expanded reasons. The ease of dealing with a carrier will push them to place more business with that carrier.
What do they need? They want to enter data once and not have to rekey. Simple apps and standards make their lives easier. We all know it’s not all that simple, though. Insurers have been trying to simplify agent carrier processes for years. SEMCI, ACORD standards, and other efforts have been on the table since the early 1990s.
The difference now is the technology. Newer technology makes this doable. It’s critical for agent connectivity with carriers to help the agency improve their productivity and reduce costs. Agents want to key in information, know if it meets a carrier’s appetite, get a sense of price, and have information electronically moved back to the agency management system. If not directly integrated, they want information pushed and pulled, not handled manually repeatedly.
Because their customers expect to get other answers in real time, they will expect that an agent will be able to do the same. The customer won’t wait a week to find out the price. He can get products shipped from Amazon same day…why shouldn’t he expect to get a quote in seconds?
Beyond that, agents will want electronic access to their customers’ information and their agency’s information from the carrier. Loss runs, production statistics, commission information, aggregated customer information are all available and should be viewable or delivered with the push of a button.
You need to create a strategy for connectivity with customers. Connectivity really is based on a framework from simple to complex and the functions that are provided fall into five tiers: informational, transactional, content, marketing and collaboration.
When this connectivity conundrum began, companies built informational portals, where access to certain information was granted, but only for viewing. After that first stage, insurers introduced transactional or service-based connectivity, which was great for both customer and company and, in addition to viewing information, customers could begin the quoting process, and perhaps pay a bill or report a claim. Acceptance by customers of transactional features led companies to begin making content available.
In this third tier of connectivity, financial calculators, product content, descriptions of coverages and links to other sources of information were introduced. All other service industries and sales sites had moved to this level ahead of insurance carriers, so customers readily accepted these capabilities.
As experience and use grew, companies realized that if people connected with the company, they could advance their presence and create a marketing/sales feature which would allow them to expand by beginning to cross-sell products and generate leads.
Finally, connectivity had reached the point of collaborative interaction and communication. Secure email through web connectivity, instant messaging, chat, and the ability to deal directly with an underwriter, claims rep, etc. is fast becoming the norm.
It’s all about feature-rich connectivity through a site or app that is intuitive and easy to use. Become strategic and plan for this now if you haven’t already. If you have, reevaluate where you are, and compare your functionality with what is happening in other industries. Like it or not, your customers’ expectations of your business is based on their experiences in other online environments.
Wayne Umland is the founder and principal of Wayne Umland Consulting. He can be reached via email at email@example.com
- Now Accepting Nominations for the 2019 ITA Bridge Awards
- It's time to register for ITA LIVE!
- Registration is Now Open for ITA LIVE 2019!
- What to Expect from a Digital Experience Platform Implementation
- ITA Pro Magazine September Edition is Now Available
- It's National IT Professionals Day
- Save the Date for ITA-LIVE 2019
- OneShield Software and UrbanStat Work Together to Improve Real-Time Analytics and Risk Decision-Making
- ITA LIVE 2019 - SAVE THE DATE!
- Insurance Technology Association Announces New Editor-in-Chief
- August 2018 Edition ITA Pro Magazine is Now Available
- Enterprise Architecture in an Agile World
- Top 10 Tips for Securing Your Mobile Devices and Sensitive Client Data
- Industry Insight: 4 Global Insurance Trends in Digital, Data, Content Services and Security
- Diving Deeper into Prioritizing Your Strategic Digital investments
- Why Content Rules
- How Mass Personalization Will Open the Small Business Benefits Market
- At Year End 2017, Will Your Organization Be Protected from Cyber Risks?
- Do Insurance Bots Dream of Mitigating Risk?
- Conditioned to Respond
- Managing & Mobilizing Insurance Data in a Connected World
- Race to the Finish Line
- New Tools, New Opportunities in Claims
- ITA LIVE: Reaching Insurance Industry Crossroads
- Advice to Insurance IT Leaders: Keep Your Eye on the Ball
- New Date, Venue for ITA LIVE 2017
- Guidewire Makes Major Push to Small and Midtier Market by Acquiring ISCS
- Insurance Disruption is Happening Right Now
- Insurity Adds Strategic Investment Partner, General Atlantic
- Beyond Transformation: The Convergence of Finance, Risk, and Actuarial Functions
- The Rapid Evolution of Consumer Protection Regulation
- Talent Hunt: Finding, Attracting, Retaining Top People
- Insurers Flexing Their Distribution Models
- Technology Driving Disruption in Insurance
- Fear of ‘Next Bubble’ Challenges Life, Annuity Carriers
- Technology Allows Commercial Lines Insurers to Stand Out
- Single Sign-on Viewed as Biggest Tech Challenge for Agencies
- ISCS Observes 20th Anniversary; Scurto Predicts Major Changes Ahead
- Policyholders and Their First Impressions
- Progressive Making Progress on the UBI Front
- High and Dry: Insurers Search for Disaster Recovery Plans
- Insurers Sign The (Un)Dotted Line
- Reflections of a Retired Insurance CIO
- Mobile Device Management Just One Answer to BYOD Issue
- Lessons from GEICO and Progressive on Winning the Critical Buying Stage
- You Are a Target for a Cyber Attack
- Web-based Systems are the Next Evolution in Claims Technology
- Gaining a “Wow” Experience from Web Users
- Time to Shift from Business/IT Alignment to Business/IT Alliance
- Healthcare Insurers Changing to Consumer Model
- Organization is the Key for Selecting Software Vendors
- Analysts Expound on the Needs of the Mid-tier Insurance Market
- Finding the Cure for Obamacare’s Website
- New Software Solutions Benefit Insurers on the Inside and Outside
- Products, Market Impede Investment in Systems for Life Insurers
- Combatting Cyber Threats: Predict, Prevent, Persist
- The Future of Telematics Heads Beyond Insurance
- The Shame in Cyber Security Lapses
- Building Policy Administration Systems for the Future
- Insurers Look Into The Eyes of Their Policyholders
- It’s a New Dawn for the ITA
INSURANCE IT NEWS
- Hippo Insurance Secures $70M Series C Investment Led by Felicis Ventures and Lennar Corporation
- Cloverleaf Analytics Announces Version 2.0 Release
- AmWINS selects ClarionDoor’s Digital Distribution Suite to Power Underwriting Platform
- Ask Kodiak Connects TrustedChoice.com Carrier Appetite to TechCanary Agency Management System
- Seth Bostock Joins Lucens Group as CTO with Vision to Simplify the Disability Insurance Experience
- Life Insurers Enhancing Claims Systems, Novarica Profiles Six Prominent Providers
- HazardHub Releases Frozen Pipe Score, Ice Dam Score and enhanced Weather Variables
- Big Gains & Big Bets in the Independent Insurance Channel
The Email Chat is a regular feature of the ITA Pro magazine and website. We send a series of questions to an insurance IT leader in search of thought-provoking responses on important issues facing the insurance industry.
ITA LIVE 2019
The tide is up! It's time to register for ITA LIVE 2019, our annual educational and networking conference! Our theme is "The InsurTech Revolution: Cutting Through the Hype." and we'll be bringing in a torrent of industry thought leaders, amazing insight and wonderful perspectives on the world of insurtech and its impact on the insurance landscape.
ITA LIVE 2019 will present real-life examples of true startup technologies that are helping insurers gain real advantage -- and a competitive edge -- in the marketplace. We’ll highlight the more successful InsurTech partnerships, while offering case studies that demonstrate exciting innovation and cutting-edge techniques impacting all aspects of the insurance ecosystem.
Ride the wave to LIVE 2019. Sign up today! We look forward to seeing you in May, 2019!
BLOGS AND COLUMNS
The Insurance Technology Association is pleased to announce that ITA Live 2019 is scheduled for May 5-7, 2019 at the Marriott Harbor Beach Resort and... READ MORE
It has become a common refrain over the past few years to view the practice of enterprise architecture (EA) as something that time has passed by, much... READ MORE
You have surely heard it said that small businesses are the growth engine for America. Today, the phrase has a special ring to it for benefits... READ MORE
With stagnant growth and lingering low interest rates, the life insurance industry faces a challenging future... READ MORE
Finding insurance carriers willing to write commercial lines risks has always been a challenge for producers... READ MORE
As Guidewire Software prepares for the start of Connections, its 11th annual user conference that begins on Nov. 2, Brian Desmond, chief marketing... READ MORE
Fraud detection has always been and will continue to be a critical component of claims management. Learning the lessons from current claims Straight... READ MORE
- Vendor Views