INN: Why are property inspections so important for Family Mutual?

Rod Warner: Underwriting and knowing our risk is critically important to the success of a small company. We've been more aggressive in terms of going out, getting to know our risk, and then doing a better job of underwriting it. We are very interested in automated risk management, risk inspections, and automated claims. Insurance by nature is a science of large numbers and if you're a small company you'd better be doing something better than your competitor.

There's also an unscientific, immeasurable element, and that is where the consumer is taking some ownership of the process of than they would if the company never ever showed up on the property.

INN: The consumer is playing a bigger role in underwriting?

Rod Warner: Yes, they are because we're interacting with them physically when we're about their property. They become part owner of what we're doing. The bottom line is this all effects rates.

INN: What problem does the Spex technology solve for Family Mutual?

Rod: Many companies don't do that inspection, and there’s pressure to get that policy issued as quickly as possible and to cut down any inconvenience for customers or agents. That is a drag on that agent deciding where to send his business. The inspections also add an element of cost to our customer acquisitions. That puts pressure on us; Spex is going to help us with all that.

INN: So what does the Spex technology do for you?

Rod: We already had a pretty robust risk management program, but we’re always looking to make it more efficient and accurate. What Spex does is they have integrated the technical recording, the photographs and those sorts of things that we take to build the file.

INN: How do you use Spex? What does it do?

Ryan: Basically, it's an iPad app. You take pictures and it walks you through doing an inspection. You take a picture of, let's say, washer hoses, and label it. You can also annotate, for example, “corroded washer hoses." And then go step by step through the inspection annotating these photos as needed. You can do a drawing within that inspection and use aerial photos from Google Maps.

[More out-of-the-box insurance mobile apps]

As you build the inspection, it creates the Spex reports. It puts everything together and stores it on their server. When our inspector finishes his report, we can look it up the next second in the office, which is a huge improvement on the old way, which was send the files via CD, email them, or physically deliver them to the office.

INN: What was your old inspection system?

Ryan Warner: The old system was just a camera, an Excel file, a map, and graph paper. We have had that system in place for 12 years. It was working very well; we have inspectors who were trained on that system and are very comfortable with it.

But when we saw Spex had the ability to do it on an iPad, generate a report, use geo-tracking to pinpoint the location? All these things were vast improvements on what we were doing.

INN: Is Spex integrated with other systems?

Ryan: No. Actually we're still in the process of integrating Spex into our full-blown inspection process.

INN: How are you measuring the success of this? Does it cut your inspection times? Are the inspectors appreciative?

Ryan: Yes and no. As we transition to Spex, we want to take it slow for a couple of reasons. No. 1, we felt if we did it too fast there would be a lot of growing pains that would impact the quality of work. No. 2, We're using three new guys as our testing guinea pigs for Spex. As they perfect our protocols, then we would transition our more established veteran inspectors onto Spex. But we wouldn't have made this switch unless we thought it was going to be much faster.

The ability to look at something in real time, to have an inspector go out in the afternoon and tomorrow morning be able to pull up that inspection, look at it, underwrite it and get it to the agent or the insured; that's huge. That wasn't happening in the past; that process could take up to two weeks.

INN: Tell me about workflow, does it guide them through a process and then ask for information? Are business rules built into it?

Rod: It allows for a company to introduce their own protocol or best practices for their inspections. We're translating ours over to Spex. There are a couple of ways Spex helps you label pictures, which is a huge concern, and integrate the file in the end product.

INN: Do you think of this as a tactical tool or a strategic tool?

Rod: It's a competitive advantage, I think, in terms of the small company vs. big company mentality. If they all want to jump on, great. If they don't, we feel we'll maintain that edge.

INN: How long did it go from making your purchase decision to going live with it?

Ryan: Just a couple months; we originally contacted Spex in December, tabled it for the holidays and came back in January. We liked the new enterprise version; at that point we became a beta partner. We had a lot of input into how the final product came out.

INN: What comes next, are you going to roll it out to the other inspectors, or integrate it with rating or claims?

Ryan: For sure. We started with inspections because that's easier. But we’re going to use it for our claims adjustment process. We're having another training class in a couple of weeks and after that, we hope to have all claims done on it with those three guys. Once we work out the kinks, we'll bring along our more veteran inspectors.

INN: What’s the most important thing for me to know about this project?

Rod: We spent a significant amount of time in the last 12 years studying what was going on in the field and trying to speed it up. We really thought ours was the best out there until we saw Spex. We couldn't find a lot of alternatives other than to ride our employees with a saddle. Even though we can't measure at this point how much efficiency we'll gain, from theory and history we know it will make it quicker for us.

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