The recurring theme of the many interviews for the mobile claims apps story was "put yourself in the customers' shoes," which sounds like an obvious piece of advice for anyone attempting to create any sort of application. But a mobile claims application isn't just any app.

For many users, reporting a loss will be their first experience with your company since they last wrote you a check. They're likely to be agitated. Before beginning the task at hand—documenting their most recent set back and waiting to be made whole again—they will need to find, download and configure the app, or upgrade to the most recent version. They won't know their policy number, either.

If you go by the user reviews on the Apple Store, you'll see that for insurers, there is much room for improvement. While many of the one-star (out of five) reviews show some would hold insurers responsible for rainy days and bad breath, others reveal the enormous knowledge gap between the newly mobile-enabled masses and the true digerati. And they are all paying customers.

We all know insurance is more complicated than many of these paying customers realize. No matter what happens on the front end, the entire claims process still takes forms, inspections, estimates, multiple handoffs between team members, some of whom may be outside suppliers, and a lot of communication. The process can be tendentious and the source of litigation. Under the best of circumstances, it's just not that fast.

A catastrophe will make it even more challenging. Your app may work great, if only the mobile carrier worked, and the home office wasn't underwater, and your staff wasn't at home dealing with the water in the basement and the tree that crushed their car after falling through the roof.

Guess what? At times like those, consumers aren't concerned with the challenges insurers face, nor are regulators. Despite the massive number of claims related to Superstorm Sandy, New York's Department of Financial Services is requiring insurers to settle claims faster and with less traditional documentation. DFS is holding insurers feet to the fire, publishing detailed scorecards comparing the responsiveness of insurers for all to see, and to refer to when shopping for their next policy.

Mobile claims applications are not toys; core systems modernization—to play well with the app—is more than just hype. And both are quickly becoming requirements just to stay in the game.

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