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Five Tablet Considerations for Insurance Field Agents

Mike McMahon | May 05, 2014

For insurers, mobile technology is becoming a business-critical tool, as it allows insurance workers the advantage of bringing all of their files and documents wherever their work takes them. Even more, mobility is enabling progress in a number of facets within the industry—from life to property & casualty—by providing instantaneous access to data and information, and allowing a stronger focus on service to the customer.

While the capabilities and benefits that mobility can provide are clear, a true mobile strategy takes into account the features and form factors required to provide an ideal solution. In recent years, the tablet form factor has become much more popular within enterprise organizations, and the devices are increasingly beginning to replace desktop and laptop computers as preferred tools of the trade.

According to analysts at IDC, today more tablets are sold globally than both desktop PCs and laptops combined. Tablets offer processing power, connectivity, functionality and performance capabilities comparable to that of a desktop computer, while being significantly lighter and more portable than even a laptop.

As these devices become more ubiquitous, the marketplace has been flooded with an endless variety of models. While a few of these devices are appropriate for business use, most are designed strictly for the consumer market and, in many respects, come up short for the professional world. With so many options today, it’s important that insurers arm themselves with knowledge in order to select the right tool for the job. Here are a few considerations to keep in mind:

Durability, TCO and ROI

True mobility for an insurance field agent requires technology that can handle the rigors of insurance field use, and this means more than enduring the occasional accidental drop to a hard floor or spill. Commercial devices are quickly rendered nonfunctional from such accidents, resulting in not just costly repairs and replacement, but also the loss of agent productivity and business-critical data.

While many manufacturers claim their devices are ruggedized, look for tablets with MIL-STD-810G and IP65 certifications. These designations mean the device has been tested to withstand drops, shock, vibration due to in-vehicle use, spills and moisture, extreme temperatures, and other common on-the-job hazards. Although durable technology may come with a higher sticker price, the fact that it’s built to last means insurers will benefit from a lower total cost of ownership and a greater return on investment.

Battery Life

Look for a tablet ready for a full day of work. Few insurance agents are able to stop their shift just to recharge when a device is running low on juice. The longer a battery is able to power a tablet, the longer it enables worker productivity. Beyond just battery life, look for user-accessible batteries, which are common in enterprise-grade technology but rare in consumer devices.

They can easily pop out and be replaced with a fresh and fully charged battery, keeping insurance agents productive. Consumer- grade devices generally have inaccessible batteries, so when the battery dies, the entire device is out of commission, impacting worker productivity and efficiency due to unnecessary downtime.

Security

Privacy and security concerns frequently top the list of challenges around mobile technologies within the insurance industry. Security must be tackled on both the hardware and software levels and goes hand-in-hand with considerations like mobile device management, operating system selection, and application deployments.

Features to look for include Trusted Platform Module (TPM) chipsets, anti-theft technology, and secure boot. Consumer-grade tablets typically have only the most basic levels of data security (since they’re designed only for personal use), which provides insufficient protection for sensitive business data.

Connectivity

Insurance customers have little tolerance for a slow delivery of information. Strong network connectivity is required not just to deliver on a tablet’s promise of increased mobile productivity, but also to adopt newer, more efficient processes such as real-time data collection and cloud computing.

Most tablets come standard with Wi-Fi, but 4G LTE and 3G wireless broadband are generally a better fit when tablets are primarily used out in the field. This enables the tablet to stay connected via cellular networks. A manufacturer with substantial experience in embedding cellular radios will generally provide units with superior connectivity in the field.

Purpose-Built Functionality

Insurance agents should consider the numerous environments and situations that their work can take them and select a tablet that works well there. This often requires options not found on consumer devices.

These include screens that are viewable in direct sunlight; digitizer pens for signature capture or filling out mobile forms; embedded magnetic strip and barcode readers; and intuitive touchscreen capabilities that work with gloves or in the rain. Furthermore, to ensure safety for agents who are in transit over the course of a work day, business-grade tablets can be safely mounted through a variety of certified in-vehicle mounts; an option that consumer devices simply do not offer.

With so many tablets on the market, learning how to select the right device to meet the needs of a field agent is critical to ensuring a positive rollout of effective mobility strategies. Tablet technology has matured to the point where it can finally be taken seriously as a professional computing tool and provide a potential alternative to laptops. With some key considerations in mind, insurers can select the right solution for their particular organization’s needs and leverage it in a cost-effective manner to keep their agents connected, productive and efficient.

(Mike McMahon is vice president, global enterprise sales at Panasonic System Communications Company of North America.)


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