Tag Archives: SMS

Are Passwords Finally Becoming Passé?

It looks like 2017 is continuing right where 2016 left off—with news of a massive data leak and thousands of passwords being exposed on the internet and cached by search engines.

This refers to the gaping security flaw recently discovered in the widely used Cloudflare service. It goes without saying that you should immediately change all your passwords, given how deeply embedded into the internet Cloudflare is. You also should seriously consider using a multifactor step-up capability to access your more sensitive websites and services.

Related article: Cloudflare bug spills passwords in plaintext

Your identity has become a “currency,” and criminals are able to sell it like other data. Unfortunately, many organizations are dragging their feet in adopting more advanced and secure methods for allowing customers to connect with their services. For the near term at least, passwords are here and will be here for the next few years.

See also: The 7 Keys to Strong Passwords  

In terms of security and availability, passwords are the lowest common denominator. They are cheap to deploy, users understand how to interact with them, and the risks associated with the username and password paradigm—while not fully understood—are accepted. But, there are three key factors converging that will replace these username and passwords in the future.

Many more savvy about security

First, policy- and decision-makers are becoming more sophisticated in their understanding of the risks and security profile that simple reliance on passwords presents. Recent announcements from Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer and General Counsel Ronald Bell should be a bellwether in this regard. Following YAYB (Yet Another Yahoo Breach), Bell resigned without severance pay, and Mayer lost her annual cash bonus and equity award—which some reports estimate to be worth upward of $14 million.

Governmental regulations—such as the revised payment services directive (PSD2) in Europe—are requiring more stringent authentication requirements for financial institutions while the National Institute of Standards and Technology in the U.S. no longer recommends one-time passwords (OTPs) being delivered via SMS in its Digital Authentication Guideline. Password reliance and its associated pain is a global problem.

Advances in biometrics, other alternatives

Second, viable alternatives to the password are gaining widespread acceptance. Since the release of the fingerprint scanner on the Apple iPhone 5S, biometrics have exploded as an alternative to PINs and passwords.

Related article: China embraces FIDO Alliance standards

The FIDO Alliance has grown as an industrywide organization popularizing a set of specifications that increase privacy, increase security and increase usability while at the same time allowing the multitude of players from the authentication marketplace to ensure interoperability. Adoption of such alternatives is moving along at a solid clip with millions of users worldwide already using this technology.

Consumers demand more

Finally, users are fed up. They have learned of breach after breach after breach. The added features that complicate a password are not actually making it more secure, but they do make passwords significantly more difficult to input on the small touchscreens that are becoming our primary computing devices.

As these three forces continue to converge, passwords will be replaced in greater and greater numbers.

As a society, we need to overcome password pain and look to the future. Using a fingerprint or other biometric authentication measure helps users look beyond the failed username and password infrastructure. In time, the public will understand how flawed traditional password usage is. It’s both inconvenient and insecure.

See also: How to Make Smart Devices More Secure  

In 2017, we will see more companies erring on the side of security, removing passwords and implementing modern authentication strategies that eliminate the opportunity for large-scale password leaks and theft.

This post originally appeared on ThirdCertainty. It was written by Phil Dunkelberger. 

The Great AI Race in Insurance Innovation

The rise of artificial intelligence is the great story of our time. Leaving the laboratory after decades in the making, artificial intelligence, or AI, is infusing itself into many aspects our daily lives – from homes and phones to cars and offices. Machines are now able to perform tasks that previously required human intelligence across various industries. Insurance, once perceived as highly resistant to change, has now accelerated the race for innovation.

Placing AI at the forefront of the innovation agenda, insurers have been separating the hype from reality to reinvent business models. Insurance has accepted the fact that AI isn`t coming — it’s here. Companies are racing to apply artificial intelligence to find a 10X improvement.

The following case studies provide a first-hand look at how today’s pioneering insurers are advancing strategic growth and transformation with artificial intelligence:

AI in Consumer Engagement

Insurers are constantly seeking opportunities to enhance the trust and relationship with customers, as the industry has always suffered from a lack of frequent and direct engagement. Today, AI is increasing being applied to collect large volumes of real-time data at very high velocity, recognize patterns of customer behavior and engage in deeper interactions for a more personalized and engaging overall experience with customers.

As AI is vying to become an indispensable part of customers’ everyday life, intelligent personal virtual assistants like Amazon’s Alexa, Microsofts’s Cortana, Google’s Now, Facebook’s M and Apple’s Siri are evolving to learn customers’ preferences and behavioral patterns and then making recommendations and potentially acting on behalf of the customer. Using just voice services, customers are now able to interact with insurers through a more intuitive channel, from asking everyday insurance questions to getting an insurance quote, or simply navigating the insurance process.

See also: Insights on Insurance and AI  

AI bots’ are becoming the new user experience (UX). Chatbot technologies are engaging customers on websites, mobile apps and messaging services such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and SMS using natural language. The advancements in conversational AI agents, including their ability to adapt to speech patterns, vocabulary and personal preferences, have driven insurers to take things to the next level with full conversational interactions powered by AI bots throughout the customer journey. From a customer perspective, it`s truly a game-changing experience as we could now simply ask a question through speech or text and have insurers resolve problems or attend to an inquiry, at any point in time from any digital interfaces (including websites and mobiles apps) instead of navigating our way around complicated websites or time-consuming contact centers. Some insurers have successfully launched Alexa-integration, allowing customers to quickly access important information such as policy premium status, as well as make payments and recommend additional coverage based on lifestyle changes.

Although these advancements won`t be able to replace an agent in the short term, AI agents are learning at unprecedented speed, and this is just scratching the surface of what’s coming. A recent Gartner study predicts that, by 2020, the customer will manage 85% of its relationship with an organization without human interaction. While we know analyst projections may at times be over-optimistic, the reality is that AI likely will be the basis for competing on customer experience from here onward. There’s no turning back.

AI in Automated Advisory

Some insurers will leapfrog the innovation race with automated insurance advisory. With robo-advisers, insurers can now offer real advice without the need for any human intermediaries, anytime and anywhere.

The complexity of insurance often frustrates customers and leads to mistrust. It is also hard to decouple decisions from emotional and social reasons or agent bias.

Robo-advisers can build a consolidated financial portfolio, often aggregating data from various insurers and financial providers including life and health coverage, annuity accounts, savings, brokerages, etc. Robo-advisers then combine behavioral and external data to simulate future risk preferences, running future scenarios to infer cradle-to-grave financial plans and investment management advice.

AI in Underwriting and Claims Management

Increased automation in claims management and underwriting holds the promise of delivering a more customer-centric experience.

Today, AI-based agents are building predictive models for processing and settlement of claims expenses and high-value losses with far lower costs and heighten levels of efficiency. Tasks that took typically months are now accurately achieved in a matter of minutes, allowing insurers to focus on value-added activities. In early 2017, tongues started wagging when Lemonade used AI to settle a claim in three seconds and Fukoku Life of Japan displaced 34 employees with IBM’s Watson Explorer AI, for a 30% productivity increase.

See also: Seriously? Artificial Intelligence?  

Software developed using machine learning gathers all the details that underwriters need, while also identifying hidden risks.

Insurers are racing to routinize more work with artificial intelligence automation in core insurance business process areas such as fraud detection, policy services and contract administration, claims administration and risk compliance. We foresee increased application of artificial intelligence in any task that’s high-volume and highly repetitive and demands low human judgment, reaping sizable costs savings.

AI in Pricing Risk

Traditionally, insurers use generalized linear models (GLM), with predefined variables such as age, sex, location and occupation class, then fitted with additional factors/variables for predictions.

Today, modern machine learning techniques have increased speed, sophistication and accuracy, accelerating the adopting of usage-based and behavior-based pricing. Motor, alone, has seen a constant stream of telematics data ingested into machine learning models; driving patterns are not only used for accurate pricing of risk but also to prevent accidents by alerting drivers with behavior tips and with information about traffic and road conditions.

Health insurers are capitalizing on wearable technologies such as Fit Bits and Jawbone to drive individuals toward better health. By linking incentives to customers with healthy lifestyle characteristics such as regular exercise, walking, running, cycling, swimming and a healthy body mass index (BMI), insurers are lowering risk — and premiums.

With shorter modeling response time, increased actuarial simulation and the capability to learn, machine-based pricing is marching toward becoming an industry standard much quicker than we anticipated.

The Future

The work in artificial intelligence is just beginning. Insurers are aggressively exploring opportunities.

See also: Convergence: Insurance in 2017  

Winners will be determined by the velocity and scale of their use of AI and by the ability to go beyond pure business results. After all, the fundamental promise of an insurer is to help customers live their lives with peace of mind — healthier and safer.

The Case for Personalization

The relationship between the insured and the insurance company isn’t just business — it’s also personal. It’s important for insurance companies to be there when customers need them the most, but, over the past decade, “there” has been redefined, and too many insurance companies haven’t adjusted.

See also: 5 Personal Traits of Great Leaders  

Consumers today communicate on a variety of platforms, including: online, mobile, email and social media. Insurance company leaders who want to gain a competitive advantage must monitor shifting communication patterns and adjust their outreach strategies so they can be where their customers are.

Insurance companies need data — both large and small. Big data has become an increasingly central component of modern business operations across all sectors, including the insurance industry. But insurance company leaders who want to implement a visionary approach and build a closer relationship with customers should think beyond the typical use cases, such as using big data to detect fraud. They need to consider “small data,” too — such as using social media and SMS contact information to build relationships.

That’s a tall order for insurance companies, which typically don’t have that type of contact information in customer files and often struggle to maintain accurate phone numbers and addresses because many insurers only interact with customers when it’s time to process a claim or add a family member to a policy. But to truly modernize their approach to customer service, and make it more immediate and personal, insurance companies have to bridge the information gap, clean up existing data and secure the additional contact information they’ll need to reach customers where they are.

Insurers will also need to ask customers about their communication preferences and obtain consent for future contact early in the customer journey and relationship lifecycle — or as soon as possible for their existing customer base. Insurers can analyze the communication channels available to customers and ask customers which platforms they prefer, then abide by the customers’ stated preferences. In this way, insurers are implicitly demonstrating that they respect their customers.

See also: Personal Effectiveness – The Continuing Challenge  

But following this strategy is much more than just a sign of respect or a signal that the company is tech-savvy. It opens up possibilities for relationship-building through technology. For example by using a secure, compliant platform that integrates data from multiple sources — and automates messaging via voice, text or email — insurance companies can engage in proactive communication, such as sending out alerts when a weather event threatens a customer’s area. And by integrating data from connected home products, like sensors in smoke detectors and appliances that connect to the Internet of Things (IoT), insurers can communicate with customers and their preferred providers to alert them of issues, as they arise, reducing property damage.

A personalized approach like this not only reduces risk for both insurer and insured, it builds trust. As insurers create new lines of communication with customers, insurers can become an important part of the customer’s support network — truly looking out for the customer.

The technology to make it happen exists today. All it takes to put data to work for a higher purpose is the vision to change the way the company communicates and make it more immediate and human. Because with insurance, it’s not just business — it’s personal.

What GoogleCompare Shows on LeadGen

Steve Jobs was famous for saying; “A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” He was most often referring to focus groups and “industry experts” as the last places he’d look for ideas on innovation and disruption.

I’ve often wondered what Jobs would have said if asked to reimagine insurance distribution in America. I think he might have obsessed about a customer-centric mindset, a fierce focus on trust and a single place for managing risk. Not what you typically see from those trying to disrupt LeadGen in insurance today.

Others Will Follow GoogleCompare Out

TheZebra.com, Insurify.com, QuoteWizard.com, GoogleCompare … the list appears to be endless these days – represent a group of “innovators” who didn’t think what the consumer might want from an insurance experience, and in turn are delivering a toxic insurance shopping experience clouded by opaque offers like providing an Expert Virtual Insurance Agent. What’s worse, many in the FinTech vertical – investors and media alike — are talking about these “innovations” without ever taking them for a test drive. Imagine the editor of Car & Driver simply publishing the latest hype for a new Ford Truck model as gospel without taking the vehicle for a spin.

So, why not take a spin. Ask for a quote from theZebra.com or QuoteWizard.com, AND give the company your actual email address and cell phone number. Then buckle up. Calls… emails… ad nauseam. And most of the outreach is not even from the LeadGen company you connected to. In fact, most of these LeadGen companies don’t actually sell insurance. They simply sell the customer and everything the customer has shared about themselves to others. How can that be?

Their Words – Not Ours

TheZebra.com home page promises the consumer “insurance in black and white.” Reminds me of Apple when it launched its iconic iPod with the simple phrase: “1,000 songs in your pocket.” Pretty snappy. But unlike Apple, which simply delivered on its promise, here’s what theZebra.com says it will actually do to the consumer and the personal information she provides. (As it happens, the privacy disclosure about buying insurance “in black and white” is in grey on the Zebra.com website. As my Dad would say, there are some things you just can’t make up. These are actual excepts from the company web site. The boldface is ours.

SHARING OF PERSONAL INFORMATION

The Zebra may rent, sell or share Personal Information or Location Based Information it collects about you to or with third parties. Personal Information and Location Based Information collected from you is commonly used to provide you with products and services and to comply with any requirements of law.

By submitting your e-mail address and/or phone number (as the case may be) via The Zebra or our properties, you authorize us to use that e-mail address and phone number to contact you periodically, via e-mail, SMS text message, and manually-dialed and/or auto-dialed telephone calls, concerning (i) your insurance-related or quote requests, (ii) any administrative issue regarding our services and/or (iii) information or offers that we feel may be of interest to you. We may also send e-mails to you periodically regarding updated quotes or offerings. You may opt out of receiving e-mails from us at any time by unsubscribing as set forth in the applicable e-mail. Additionally, by filling out information on The Zebra as part of your request for information about insurance policies and quotations, you authorize us to provide that information to various insurance companies, insurance agents and other related third parties that participate in our network. Some insurance companies or third parties may then provide your personal information to their insurance carriers, suppliers and other related vendors in order to generate price quotations and information relevant to insurance policies that you have requested. These third parties may use the contact information (including telephone number(s)) you have provided to contact you directly with quotations by means of telephone (manually or auto-dialed), fax, email and postal mail, even if you have registered your phone number(s) on local and/or national no-call lists. You further acknowledge and agree that each third-party that receives your quote request from this website or from our affiliates may confirm your information through the use of a consumer report, which may include among other things, your driving record and/or credit score. For purposes of faxing, it is understood that insurance companies or third parties have an established business relationship with each user of this website, if required to comply with the then current law.

We may also share certain personal information or location-based information with institutions providing possible product offerings to you based on the information you submit through the Website (e.g. financial institutions and/or insurance companies), and/or certain The Zebra vendors in order to allow them to use that information to obtain and provide us with additional information about you, and/or product offerings that might be of interest to you.

Decades of Trust Put at Risk in a Digital Instant

Iconic insurance brands, like AllState, Amica, Esurance and MetLife – are just a few of the insurance carriers featured inside these LeadGen sites. This isn’t complicated. As consumers, all of us are very wary of providing our personal information to anyone – always looking for assurances that the receiver of our personal information is someone we can trust. As insurance professionals, we will always require personal, non-public information to underwrite risk. It is critical as an industry that we preserve the public’s trust that we will respect their confidence and protect their data.

In my company, we do a lot of work with financial institutions, and even though they might complain about regulatory overreach, most bank CEOs are proud to state in BLACK AND WHITE: We will not share/sell your personal information with third parties. Look at the fight Apple and Google are prepared to wage to protect the personal data on someone’s cell phone – so focused about protecting the assumption of trusted privacy implicit in their brands.

When insurance carriers specifically, and our industry in general, support or, worse, encourage these LeadGen models, they put our brands, our hard-fought reputation of trust, and an emerging generation of customer-centric, omni-channel-licensed insurance advisers at risk. Insurance isn’t a commodity as long as underwriting is required, and regulators require massive balance sheets to stand at the ready to settle claims. Personal information, whether provided person to person or online, or via virtual driving analytics aggregation tools – it’s the customers’ data. And we as customers want to know who they are giving it to and how it’s being used.

If carriers don’t question this toxic experience called LeadGen, you can bet consumers and their advocacy groups will shortly assemble a collective voice to express their dissatisfaction to regulators – and the regulators will be quick to respond. I can hear Sen. Elizabeth Warren and the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB) decrying the misrepresentations and mistreatment suffered by the consumer when they provide their personal information under the guise of a black-and-white shopping experience — only to learn their information has in fact been down-streamed to others again and again. Our entire industry will be painted with a very unflattering brush. Just as the outlandish behavior of certain mortgage origination companies drew harsh scrutiny for all lenders in the last decade, think of insurance commissioners and Congress taking aim at the “grey print” of these LeadGen models: the CFPB alleging potential unfair, deceptive or abusive acts and practices (UDAP) violations because of the problematic impact on the consumer.

Going Forward

For the carriers, the dilemma is real. Traditional brick and mortar local agencies as distribution platforms are going away. They have no large, scalable, addressable markets that can be engaged digitally. GEICO is relentlessly accumulating market share by going direct to consumers. It’s almost understandable that, given those constraints, some of America’s most powerful insurance brands are putting their brand equity at risk on these LeadGen platforms in an effort to remain visible, reaching for any option to remain viable.

An alternative solution is emerging. Insurance cCarriers and our industry must focus on imagining a new type of licensed agent with the tools that will let them provide a transformative insurance shopping experience for insureds – a lifetime of simple, comfortable, obsessively trustworthy insurance purchases and service. And we, as agents, from the Big I on down, have to imagine a new generation of insurance advisers and insurance agencies. Think of them as meta agents operating in meta agencies.

Can we imagine a new generation of agent that can instantly access all of the public and non-public information about a customer’s character and collateral, deliver it to a stable of insurance carriers that are prepared to underwrite that risk, in exactly the format they need it in, get instant quotes from the carriers that reflect the customer’s risk tolerance and assets to be insured, be available to provide any of the advisory insights the customer might want – all exactly at the moment the customer has an insurance need? A new generation of agents, operating in a new generation meta-agency — fulfilled in their work as risk managers and customer advocates, operating in a seamless, frictionless ecosystem in lifelong service to the customer. And all with an obsessive commitment to trust.

Can you hear Steve Jobs in his iconic black turtleneck on stage wondering the same out loud?

A New-Generation Agent and Agency

A new generation of agent and agency is emerging – empowered and excited to deliver insurance solutions to consumers, operating inside companies that have long and deep trusted brand equity with the consumer, an obsessive commitment to trust. And, having earned that trust, these agents have access to everything a carrier needs to know about the consumer’s character and collateral, eliminating the dreaded “insurance interview and application” or, worse, “the LeadGen hustle.”

This new agent never prospects, sells or steers a customer – the agent simply focuses on delivering a frictionless shopping, comparing, buying and post-purchase service experience tailored to each unique customer exactly at the instant the customer needs it — again, with an obsession for trust. We believe the role of an agent, with a completely reimagined operating environment, is more important and more valuable than ever before.

A new generation of agents and agency is emerging – reimagined to reflect what the customer actually wants, even though, in the iconic words of Steve Jobs, “They didn’t know it.”

Customer Perception Is Your Reality!

The quote in the headline — “The customer’s perception is your reality” — is from the renowned business trainer Kate Zabriskie, and I hope you agree it is absolutely true. No matter how excellent you think you are, or your company is, at service delivery, your future success as an enterprise depends principally upon how good you are in your customers’ minds when responding to their ever-changing needs. Or, as John Mackey (CEO, Whole Foods) put it, “For us, our most important stakeholder is not our stockholders, it is our customers. We’re in business to serve the needs and desires of our core customer base.”

But what are those needs? Are they those that you may have already identified, based on your experience? Has your considerable operational expenditure, in people and systems, really met what your customers need? Or is our thinking unconsciously restricted by our knowledge of what we can and cannot easily achieve?

There are many publications, a plethora of business processes ideas and of course the Internet itself, all crammed with customer relationship management theories. I don’t suggest that these are wrong, but what I do believe is that most financial services customers want something better than the superficial contact often delivered regularly by mailshots or e-mails. The “relationship” they require is more like that of their general medical practitioner! Namely a service that is accessible, resulting in knowledgeable and courteous attention, one that is effective, on call always but available only when needed.

This article focuses on customer perception and service delivery for existing insurance customers and associated stakeholders. More specifically about how appropriately the enterprise responds to customers’ post-sales questions, claims and changes about personal lines policies.

It might first be helpful to consider, in general terms, the prime means of post-sales service delivery in the UK currently deployed by insurance companies, brokers, claims service companies, etc.

These channels are principally face-to-face in offices; via the Internet; over the telephone, including SMS texting; and, to an under-developed extent, through mobile service platforms.

Branch contact used to be normal, but face-to-face customer contact seems on the decline. No doubt the cost of staff, the use of alternative technologies and the need to drive down costs have all contributed to the demise of the branch office. The challenge then is how to achieve the goal that Sam Walton (founder of Wal-Mart) described as “customer service that is not just the best but legendary.”

Well, I imagine that the words “call center” do not spring immediately to your mind as “legendary.”

At their best, call centers provide a good and necessary service, but I do not believe that the sophisticated telephony statistics and in-house customer surveys yield an entirely accurate picture of customer perception.

In the main, customer perception is that call centers are a dismal fact of life. They often describe their experience as an endless series of numerical options and pre-recorded messages. These are followed by an interminable wait brought to an unsatisfactory climax by what they perceive as a “factory service,” so often a conversation with an underpowered and strictly timed operator, who seems in a hurry to deal with the next call.

Is this the sort of post-sales service your customers deserve? Does it really surprise and delight your customer with “legendary” service?

From an enterprise point of view, call centers are generally sub-optimal. Staff turnover can be high, recruitment and training costs significant, with onerous levels of supervisory oversight. Management often experiences prolonged stress, justifying service delays and fretting how to improve service without incurring more costs. Most call center staff cannot make significant changes to policy records, or handle customers’ resulting needs themselves; instructions have to be prepared for other processing technical staff.

Is there a better or additional way, other than a call center, in which the increasing expectations of existing insurance customers can be met and exceeded? Is it possible to achieve this and at the same time drive a huge chunk of operational costs out of the business?

The answer is emphatically yes! In fact these benefits can be achieved quickly and cheaply compared with traditional legacy and Internet technology. The solution is to deploy the latest and powerful mobile technology directly to customers, to empower them to access their own records and to make self-service changes, raise claims and initiate inquiries directly to a database or a secure copy.

Today’s customer is never far from a smartphone or tablet. The expectation from an enterprise is that of mobile technology being available to post-sales and post-renewal. Customers do not want to be pinned down to call center hours or a static location from which to call to make changes or to deal with claims.

Any company that offers a post-sales insurance service that suits the time and place of their choice must surely have a significant and differentiated product. If that same company, as a result, is able to eliminate a huge percentage of its operational costs, then it also will derive a massive commercial advantage. Let’s see how this can be achieved.

To explain and to avoid confusion with traditional legacy solutions, I will briefly describe the provenance of modern mobile technology platforms.

It was not long ago that mobile phones were used solely for voice calls and texts. Today’s smart phones and tablets are multifunctional devices that can insert themselves into the very DNA of the customer-enterprise relationship.

This is possible by means of developing intelligent mobile processes. Operating systems for smart phones such as Mac iOS, Android, Windows and RIM are now fully mature and open a window of opportunity for the development of third-party software.

But quality matters, too, and development needs to be easy and intuitive to use because mobile users demand more choice, more ways to use their phones more functionally.

The Internet just allowed us to connect with anyone in the whole world. But with mobile technology we will connect anytime and anywhere with everything through “the Internet of Things” (IoT). Manufacturers and retailers are investing immense amounts of money in intelligent appliances, and very soon your home will be as smart as your car. This technology offers a unique chance for insurance enterprises to integrate intelligent mobile devices in their post-sales service delivery.

For example:

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How would this work in practice? Mobile and tablet applications are limited only by vision and imagination, and space in this article permits only a brief summary. There are two principal post-sales areas where advantage can be gained, namely policy changes/inquiries and claims reporting/progress.

Imagine your home and contents policyholder receiving a renewal notice and reviewing the cover. This might show that the sums assured need revision and that a newly acquired item of jewelry should be added; perhaps an optional extra such as legal expenses cover is to be considered. By means of an appropriate mobile phone or tablet, the policyholder “logs in” and views current policy details. No doubt this will include a reminder that renewal is almost due.

Using the form of graphic display the policyholder is used to (sliders and check boxes on smart phones for example) the cost of changes are modeled. More information about the legal expenses cover is requested, received and possibly some questions answered. Mid-term changes are frequent, too, so any relevant date and details of change may subsequently be selected once the policy records are accessed from the mobile. When the customer is satisfied with the modeled changes, the new risk profile is sent to the insurer and a new premium generated. If accepted (or remodeled), payment details are collected, and no doubt certain questions required by the insurer are “check-boxed,” instant confirmation is given and promptly afterward updated documents e-mailed to the policyholder.

All of these events take place at a time, day and location of the customer’s choice. Unless the customer chooses otherwise, no call center conversation is required; no staff are needed to manually process the changes. In this example, all the requested changes were within the insurer’s underwriting and rating rules; had they not been, then an appropriate message would be generated ensuring, that a call center contact is focused upon more specialized and justified issues, requiring a smaller number of trained and empowered people. In effect, the call center becomes a skill center, a quite different entity.

Reporting claims and dealing with claims progress issues can easily be imagined, and again the limit is process appetite and creativity. Mobile technology has the advantage of a camera, GPS and verifiable date and time. So this data can be assured and becomes invaluable within the claims oversight process.

Photographs can be taken, with assured dates/times/locations of loss-related events, damage, articles etc. These can be attached to a mobile claims notification, with appropriate inbuilt guidance, and sent to the claims department to initiate the process. The mobile can be used to receive calls, texts and e-mails. Even voice messages or videos from the customer can be attached. Adjusters can be appointed automatically subject to a “rules engine”; replacement goods can be selected and offered via the mobile connection; estimates and invoices can be generated or photographed for sending on to the claims department.

The effect of these customer processes upon service delivery is abundantly clear. But what of the opportunity to save costs? In my experience, between 25% and 50% of inbound customer calls are of a standard, non-exceptional nature. Conservatively, once fully operational, I would expect mobile technology for post-sales activities to drive out 30% of staff and call center costs of the enterprise. For those who also use call center or technical staff to actually manually process changes, as well, similar levels of savings could be achieved in that part of the operation.

At this stage it is reasonable to ask, if the technology is available now, the advantages so attractive and already being employed by other enterprises, why have insurers, generally, not yet filled this space?

I speculate that there are five reasons:

– The skills required to build mobile technology platforms are not generally available in most insurers’ computer departments.

Mobile process development is new and different, and simply importing legacy or internet systems on mobiles produces ugly, cumbersome customer applications. The solution is the careful selection of a third-party provider, working with staff, to introduce these new skills into the computer department.

– Core processes and enterprise data is jealously guarded by departments. Security is also of paramount importance.

They are right to be careful! These assets must not be put in harm’s way. Until complete confidence is established, the safe solution is to use replicated rules engines and validate changed data outside the core processes. The use of the latest and most secure encryption technology is paramount.

– Most IT departments have a tremendous backlog of legacy system updates. It’s essential but difficult to focus on a new mobile future when you are trapped in the technology of the past developments.

By using a third-party provider to quickly develop applications and train existing staff, an enterprise can begin to move forward and avoid being left behind by newer competitors.

– Development is seen as possibly expensive and probably protracted.

In fact, the opposite is true. It is surprisingly quick and relatively inexpensive to develop the latest generation of applications for mobile platforms compared with legacy systems. Payback can often be achieved within months of launch.

– There may be a lack of imagination or strategic understanding of what mobile applications can achieve.

It is, in my opinion, dismally true that some of the few mobile insurance “apps” available download little more than contact details, or a claim form. Recreating on a mobile what an enterprise already does on the Internet misses the point entirely and wastes a unique opportunity.

In conclusion, mobile technology has rendered the call center, in its current form, obsolete. The only question is how long the process will take. It will be fascinating to see the more agile and visionary insurance enterprises seize the opportunities presented by mobile technology.