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Five ways smartphones, tablets benefit the insurance industry

By Evan Wade / September 12, 2013

Adapting to changes in technology can seem downright impossible. Getting new hardware, installing new software, training employees, transferring and maintaining data — it’s the stuff migraines are made of. Now imagine trying to implement all those updates in the paper-heavy insurance industry.

Sure, insurance has its high-tech moments (Progressive’s Snapshot comes to mind), but the field has yet to see widespread adoption of smart devices on either side of the desk. User researcher, Kristen Pfeiffer, chalks the inertia up to a hodgepodge of systems, the size of the companies running those systems and the disjointed IT staffs they employ.

Devices are converging, and technology has never been better from an ease-of-use standpoint. More importantly, customers are taking to touchscreens like fish to water. Here are five ways mobile and insurance can work together to create a better customer experience — and a better business as a whole — with the help of smart devices.

1. They make for great CRM tools

Remember Rolodexes? Insurance agents do: many, Pfeiffer says, use the once ubiquitous card files to store their clients’ critical information, even though they use smartphones for personal communication. Enter the customer relationship management (or CRM) system. Custom software lets reps keep critical customer info in their pockets and off their desk, making it easier to sell and service.

Smartphones also make it easier to record a customer’s information on the spot. Back in the day, agents would record notes into dictaphones and make their receptionists transcribe it. Today, the same process can be accomplished much more efficiently using Siri and a direct connection to the CRM app.

The increased convenience lead by technological advancements results in happier customers, which in turn reduces churn. Who would you rather talk to, the guy who has to fumble through a bulky plastic box to remember your details or an empowered rep with the ability to review your policy at a glance no matter where he is?

2. They make your customer’s life easier

Keith Pearce calls reducing customer effort a “hidden key” to keeping them around, but it’s no secret that making customers’ lives easier will endear them to you. A simple, optimized account manager app may be all it takes to keep disgruntled customers on your roster.

If they have to drive to your office or make a call to talk shop, the reps with the online account manager will start to look a little more appealing pretty darn quick. Some companies, like State Farm and USAA, are already getting recognition for their convenient customer-facing mobile options.

The most practical mobile communication gaining traction with insurance agents is the same one teenagers have been using to share gossip for years, text messages. Rather than making customers jot down quotes delivered over the phone, tech savvy agents are sending information-filled texts that customers can reference at their convenience, no pen and paper required. If an insurance company remains in the days of automated phone calls and answering machines, they may start noticing a lot of silence on the other end of the receiver.

3. They help your sellers sell

Whether your reps are pitching to grannies or mortgage brokers, the ability to sell is a critical skill. Custom mobile software is every bit an extension of your brand as your agents, and your brand recognition is the most valuable asset you have in such a competitive industry.

Insurers looking to spread their name over a larger territory can meet with current and potential customers through a remote tablet presentation. Not only will this enable them to meet with people all over the world, it’ll also allow the agent to share their screen with the customer and show them different ways to increase the value of their plan.

With the combined powers of mobile and insurance, your reps can pull customer info, present a slide show and have new clients sign every important document on the spot — be it a coffee shop, a board room or opposite corners of the world — and all on the same device they’ll use to send boastful texts to the rest of the sales team after they’ve closed the deal.

4. They help the bottom line

Setting up an interactive admin dashboard can have positive effects that span entire regions, and taking them mobile can ensure that every agent knows what metrics they need to focus on. Especially in larger offices, the end result is a cohesive, informed, motivated team with a high-level view of fiscal goals. That, Pfeiffer says, results in better practices all around: “It helps cut costs and find solutions. That’s important in this business.”

5. They increase brand trust

No matter their age or education level, the average customer is increasingly tech-literate. In a world where offices are dominated by “filing cabinets and stacks and stacks of paper,” as Pfeiffer puts it, the company with the best tech gets the edge. Certain features, like online account management and bill pay options, are more or less mandatory.

Why not go the extra step and wow potential clients with your company’s advanced technological savvy? It doesn’t have to be on the level of the above-mentioned Snapshot to make a splash. You never know when a tech enthusiast might tell their Twitter followers about that impressive mobile presentation given by an agent, or how an agent was able to view their policy on the spot from a tablet.

Free advertising, fewer filing cabinets and a smoother running business? That’s a win-win-win.