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 constitu-encies 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 customers to get where
they want, you’ll lose them.
Don’t forget, agents are customers,
What do they need? They want to
enter data once and not have to re-key.
Simple apps and standards make their
lives easier. We all know it’s not that sim-
ple, 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
The difference now is the technology. Newer technology makes this work
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 repeatedly handled manually.
Because their customers expect to
get other answers in real time, they will
expect an agent will be able to do the
same. The customers won’t wait a week to
find out the price. They can get products
shipped from Amazon same day. Why
shouldn’t they expect to get a quote in
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, and
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. Connectiv-
ity really is based on a framework from
simple to complex and the functions that
are provided fall into five tiers: informa-
tional, transactional, content, marketing
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. 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
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
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 are based on their experiences in
other online environments. ITA
Wayne Umland is the founder and
principal of Wayne Umland Consulting. He can be reached via email at