Web 2.0 for Insurance Questions and Answers

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I wanted to follow-up the IsoTech08 conference and the talk I delivered there on Web 2.0 and Insurance with answers to a few questions that came from the audience.

The full presentation slides are posted on slideshare:

View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: agent_collaboration agent_engagement)

Questions and Answers:

Q: the new trends in the innovative use of the web seem to give direct insurers an advantage over indirect ones, as they focus a much larger portion of their resources in direct to consumer services and marketing. How can traditional agent centric companies compete?

A: Do you remember the end of real estate agents? When Your Home Direct launched with a website and a 2% commission structure everyone mourned agent based companies. It appeared that agents do provide value and the 2% became 3%, then 4% and now chapter 11. Remax is still going strong…

Agents provide a personal relationship and value that is appreciated by many customers. Companies can empower these agents with the latest tools and technologies that will allow them to provide their customers with the best user experience and convenience that will provide the best of both worlds.

The direct providers like Geico, provide tools but no context or tailoring to the client specific needs. Agents should be provided with a white label set of tools (tools that the Insurer provides but can be customized with the branding, contacts and products that a specific agent provides). When providing a quote, it is not a printed document but a link to a personalized client site with all the details of the quote listed and the ability for the client to make changes and see options. Agents can communicate through messages or live chat and provide all the options and discounts.

The Customer gets a completely customized experience guided by a trusted agent.

Insurers that will empower their agents with tools like these will not have a problem to compete successfully.

Q: It was mentioned that one of the largest hurdles in the successful implementation of social and collaboration tools inside the enterprise is lack of critical mass of users. How can we ensure that we reach the critical mass and what will drive adoption?

A: It is true that for any community to be lively and for any communication tool to be effective it needs to reach a sufficient number of people. There are few ways to help that happen:

  • Cultivate the core user group. The ratio is usually 1:9. For every one contributor you have 10 readers and commenters. The contributors form the heart of the community and need to be encouraged and rewarded
  • Put collaboration tasks within the line of business. Collaboration and social tools are often considered “above the line” or things you do above and beyond your regular work. If an organization can find ways to put the use of these tools in the regular course of doing business, their usage will become just part of doing your job. Examples can include posting files and not emailing them, soliciting feedback through a forum, not in an email etc.
  • Make it the social norm. if key activities happen there, and key executive post and conduct business in the internal social network, it will become the place to be. People will start asking each other if they saw a specific thread or comments and will drive up adoption.

Q: Can you provide an example where Mashups provide a solution that can not be addressed using other existing Portal, BI ,EAI and Dashboard tools?

A: As with any new technology, people are justifiably concerned that the hype is exaggerated and that it is just a fancy term for well implemented dashboards. The new class of tools called Mashup engines try to solve some of the fundamental problems of integrating data from multiple sources and providing it in a visual interface without the need to go though the extensive and expensive effort of actually integrating the applications and their data. By leveraging web services standards, each source of data or data driven service can be assembled quickly and provide unique insights and different way to look at data that was very difficult until now. Here are a few scenarios:

  • Dynamic view of the customer. We often talk about a 360 view of the customer with all their claims, policies, history, and in multiple lines of business. A customer mashup can take a customer record as a baseline and pull together a combination of structured and unstructured data with visual rendering. For example, if the client is company X, the company view can include:
    • Company information and price stock
    • Map of company locations
    • List of latest news from news services about the company
    • List of SEC filings
    • Existing policies with their value and renewal dates
    • List of open and recent claims
    • List of recent service calls

    The data comes from multiple sources and can quickly change but the dynamic nature of the mashup, allows sources to be added or removed quickly and for different data to load based on retrieved parameters

Image taken from: http://www.andybudd.com/presentations/dcontruct05/images/zen2.jpg on April 21, 2008.

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