Channel Management: New Ways to Reach Consumers
Insurance Networking News, July 1, 2012
"That decoupling will really help us down the line," he says. HP Exstream also will support future technologies, such as iPad and other handheld devices. "We have created this unified look with all of those thoughts and future plans in mind. And what we've created will be able to be applied moving forward."
Grange goes beyond the agent portal by extending the same sorts of data to its customer portal, grangeinsurance.com. For example, when billing information is pulled for customer mailings, that information is formatted and simultaneously published to the Web, which satisfies the policyholder's desire for access and self service, but does create the potential for conflict with the agents, who traditionally have owned the policyholder relationship.
To overcome the potential for channel conflict with agents and other stakeholders, Hellard says the company created the New Look Committee, which included representatives from personal and commercial lines, life, marketing, legal and accounting. The output from those sessions was then presented to the independent agents to demonstrate Grange's commitment to the agency model, which has been a critical factor for success, and to make certain that they didn't violate agent workflows. For example, some agents print out every policy and file them, some download the PDFs and keep them in their own policy management applications, he explains. HP Exstream supports those differences while lightening the agents' administrative burdens. Finally, the revamped documents were presented to customer focus groups.
While Hellard declined to quantify the payoff for Grange, he says it has been substantial. From an operations standpoint, the company was able to eliminate support for three envelope types, and eight pages from one contract. "That's multiplied by hundreds of thousands of personal lines customers across all the states, so that starts to add up." Grange also was able to go from 118 different proofs of insurance cards down to three.
One of the biggest benefits is the newfound ability to segment the customer base and create targeted, customized communications. With HP Exstream, Grange has the ability to see what coverages a specific customer has, or doesn't have, and include cross- and up-selling messages on ID cards.
"If they only have one vehicle, we have four open slots on that ID card," Hellard says. "In the past, we just printed VOID in those three blank spaces. Now we are putting personalized cross- and up-sell messages in there. Instead of VOID, VOID, VOID, it says, "We noticed you don't have towing labor, would you consider purchasing it or rental reimbursement? We can tailor that message to the customer by looking at the policy. If they have towing labor coverage, we print something else."
Foot in the Door
Larger companies are also paying close attention to advanced communications, rolling out mobile apps for sales as well as services, such as first notice of loss, apps for payments and quoting, but most small and mid-sized companies haven't seriously begun developing them.
"For mid-market commercials, 80 percent of the business is sent in today via e-mail with a PDF attachment for submission for a quote," says Deb Smallwood, founder of Strategy Meets Action. At least initially, she suggests automating more business processes and taking advantage of the efficiencies offered by technologies such as comparative raters and application uploads to agency management and carrier management systems.
As a managing general agent, Preferred Concepts LLC offers such efficiencies and helps make smaller deals and markets more economically attractive to its underwriting partner, XL Group, through ezumbrella.com, a website where independent agents can quote, bind and issue umbrella liability insurance policies with an average policy size of $4,000 to $5,000.
"It's almost impossible to efficiently process a $4,000 policy doing it the old-fashioned way: with an ACORD form, fax and e-mail, a 30-day underwriting process and paper quote, bind and policy," says Chris Treanor, president of Preferred Concepts. "The frictional cost and inefficiency wouldn't allow you to make money, whether you are the agent, the underwriter or the managing general agent (MGA)."
Registered agents login to ezumbrella.com, which consists of agent portal and underwriting workstation technology solutions from FirstBest Systems, to create new submissions or renewals. In real time, and in a co-browsing environment, an underwriting agent then reviews the submission and can issue a quote, declination or request for more information, linking to the account information. Quotes are then e-mailed to the agent as PDFs, which can be bound, creating the policy documents, certificates and invoices. When necessary, the customer, agent, underwriting agent and an XL Group employee can see the same screens in real time, to answer questions and finish the business.
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