The Connected Business of Insurance
April 30, 2015
It’s 9 p.m. on a Friday night and I’m stranded in Newark. With my flight canceled and no knowledge of the Newark area, I pick up my phone and say “O.K. Google, find a hotel near the Newark Airport.” Then, “O.K. Google, find train transportation from Newark Airport to New York City.” Within minutes, I’m able to book alternate transportation by train and bus to arrive at my final destination. Although I arrived at my destination a little less than 12 hours after originally scheduled, I was able to find transportation and book accommodations before the airline had re-booked my flight, which would have been 3 days later!
This moment makes me wonder how we ever functioned before mobile technology. Consumers like you and me have the capacity to access services that assist us at our moments of need, and insurance customers expect the same experience from independent agencies and brokerages.
Making Mobile a Priority
I think the first time I realized my agency needed to become more engaged from a mobile perspective was when I queued up for an airline departure and realized that several other passengers had digital boarding passes on their smartphones. Later, I saw iPads used to display digital menus and integrated flight update information in the food service areas of a major airline terminal – no waitresses to take orders and the opportunity to get immediate flight updates while you waited, plus access to the Web for anything else you wanted.
Today, limited understating among independent insurance agents of the potential of mobile technologies has kept many from adopting this technology even though mobile can be an incredibly useful tool. The market paradigm has changed and an alarm is sounding for independent agencies and brokerages. When clients have fender benders, can they take pictures and submit claims to your agency via mobile? If your clients are on vacation with no computer access, can they use their smartphones to make a few quick changes to the policies? Does your agency or brokerage offer these options?
Starbucks Knows Mobile
When people are on-the-go, they expect information to be relevant and timely. Starbucks has mastered the art of delivering targeted information at tiny little moments. In a book I recently read, “The Mobile Mind Shift: Engineer Your Business To Win in the Mobile Moment,” author Ted Schadler discusses the mobile movement across the globe. A compelling example he shares is Starbucks’ mobile strategy. Realizing that many of their customers already use mobile devices to surf the Web while in their stores, Starbucks saw an opportunity to “connect with customers” who were already online.
Starbucks identified three types of mobile moments:
Starbucks’ capitalizes on customer loyalty by providing a mobile payment option for customers already at their stores. The company recognized additional loyalty opportunity moments by analyzing traffic patterns throughout the store and plotted specific opportunities to create a loyalty moment. (Image at right shows the identified moments)
A manufactured moment occurs when you can help a customer with a problem. Another word that describes a type of manufactured moment is “Youtility.” A new buzz word, Youtility occurs when a business helps consumers with problems that are not directly related to the products and services the business sells. By being useful, we can elevate our brand in the minds of the individuals we help. Then, when it comes time for those individuals to buy our products, they will think of us first because of the Youtility we provided in their time of need. For example, Clorox has an app called MyStain that provides practical guidance on how to manage clothing stains. Say you’re at a restaurant and you spill spaghetti sauce on your white shirt. No worries because the Clorox MyStain app tells you how to use products that are most likely available at the restaurant to manage your stain until you can return home to treat it properly.
Finally, a borrowed moment is when you engage someone who is already “someplace else” like on Facebook or some other mobile application. An example would be purchasing advertising space on the mobile app of your regional newspaper. The “reader” was not there to see you but you “borrowed” their attention from the forum to which they voluntarily subscribed.
Overall, what has become incredibly evident is that we have only BEGUN to see the tip of mobility’s potential and, because it provides opportunities to create truly customized experiences or “moments,” it is changing the world. At my business, Thousand Islands Insurance Agency, and as in the Starbucks’ example, it’s about delivering a small snippet of information at just the right time. Being able to identify, for instance, details of a client’s physical damage coverage and servicing that client at 10 p.m. on a weekend is a great way to build loyalty and a long-term relationship.
No Longer a “Nice to Have”
Mobile is here to stay and the sooner we adopt ways to become “mobile-ly engaged” with clients, the sooner we can take advantage of the benefits that mobile access can provide. An example is the availability of an insurance identification card through a customer self-service portal. We live near a military base where vendors are barred access to the base if they cannot provide proof of insurance at the entrance gate. On numerous occasions, we have driven to the base gate with an insurance ID card to accommodate a client. Now, our customer self-service portal allows clients to retrieve electronic identification cards on demand with their mobile device hence satisfying their moment of need.
Mobility is no longer just a nice to have and independent agencies and brokerages need to think more about staying connected 24/7 – both in the field and with customers. At our agency we use ” target=”_blank”>Applied Mobile, a mobile insurance app for producers that brings client, policy and sales information to iPad or Android tablets because our producers need to stay connected when they’re on the go. We use it to retrieve information from the management system regarding recent transactions and activities and to confirm coverage when providing clients our 24-hour claim service. It also allows us it to complete documentation during out-of-the-office in-person meetings with clients.
To close, I challenge agents and brokers to better and more comprehensively understand the electronic mobile landscape. Personally, I’ve committed to learning and implementing at least two new useful applications every month for 2015. In these first few months, I have discovered how wide the spectrum of mobile applications is and the variety of solutions that they provide. I encourage you to take the challenge yourself!
Is your business using mobile technology? How are you finding it beneficial? We welcome your thoughts below.
Ed Higgins, vice president of Thousand Islands Insurance Agency in Clayton, N.Y. and chair at Applied Client Network, has been an active independent agent since 1974. Ed is a Past President of the Independent Insurance Agents Association of New York (IIABNY) 1995-1996. He has also served at the national level of the on Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America, Inc. as State National Director representing New York (1998-2002) and as chair of the Agents Council for Technology (A.C.T.) (1998-2003). Ed does insurance agency automation consulting on practical applications of agency automation and other technologies to enhance agency workflow & maximize customer service.