SC BLUES WINS CALL CENTER TECH AWARDBlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina, Columbia, S.C., took top honors in the "Best Use of Technology" category during the 3rd Annual Call Center Excellence Awards held recently in Las Vegas.

Presented during the annual International Quality & Productivity Center's Call Center Week conference, the Call Center Excellence Awards are designed to honor, recognize and promote the most innovative call center solutions and individuals. Experts and practitioners in the call center field judged this year's award entries.

Specifically, the company was honored for STATchat, a feature on its Web sites that enable a physician's office staff to call BlueCross over the Internet and using a rules engine gives them priority for customer service. STATchat is located within the secure, self-help "My Insurance Manager" section of the site. By using an inexpensive headset with microphone, physician office staff members click on the STATchat icon to call for assistance without dialing any numbers. STATchat links the staff member with a BlueCross provider services agent, ahead of calls from physician offices using traditional phone lines.

BlueCross' STATchat entry was the overall winner in the Best Use of Technology category.

STAKEHOLDERS SEE GROWING INTEREST IN "GET REAL TIME"

An initiative to increase implementation of real time and download technology-based workflows and independent agency-company interface applications is garnering attention, campaign leaders report.

Backed by agents and brokers, agency system carriers, technology providers, user groups, and agent and industry associations, the campaign launched in late April.

The campaign's Web site - http://www.getrealtime.org - has been a key resource for industry parties to obtain information and learn how to apply these workflows, says Jeff Yates, executive director of the Independent Insurance Agents of America's Agents' Council for Technology. Since going live a little more than two months ago, the campaign's online resource center has generated about 17,000 distinct visits and 81,000 total hits.

Aside from the home page, the most-visited pages are the vendor real-time links, carrier real-time links and the real-time resources/tools pages, notes Yates. Far and away the most downloaded document is the Independent Agent's Real Time Implementation Guide, a step-by-step outline for implementing real time, available online at www.getrealtime.org/active/RealTimeGuide.asp.

In addition to an increase in Web traffic, the number of insurance company, automation vendor, association and user group real-time links on the Web site has also grown during the past two months. And, more groups are in the process of developing links for inclusion at www.getrealtime.org, says Yates.

Yates also notes that the campaign will begin tracking aggregate real-time service and sales transactions quarter-by-quarter, beginning with the first two quarters of 2007.

NATION'S INSURERS URGE UNITED FRONT TO FIGHT FRAUD

Over the last two years various committees were created and staffed with property/casualty insurance industry professionals charged with identifying weak spots in existing fraud-fighting efforts. These groups recently completed their work and found that the industry's approach to fraud was fragmented and inadequate. While there are isolated examples of effective anti-fraud programs, a nationwide, coordinated effort on multiple fronts is necessary to reduce this costly economic problem.

During this review, five "pillars" were identified as critical components to an effective fraud-fighting structure:

* Public Awareness

* Legislative Advocacy

* Training

* Data Analysis

* Investigations

The Des Plaines, Ill.-based, not-for-profit National Insurance Crime Bureau's (NICB) operational structure presents an existing platform from which a more focused fraud-fighting organization could evolve. With its principal functions of investigations, training, government affairs, awareness and data analysis, and its nationwide network of special agents, NICB is positioned and staffed to build on the industry blueprint.

The NICB Board of Governors will develop an Integrated Business Plan for a new fraud-fighting organization incorporating the five pillars. Five committees representing each of the pillars have been established-staffed with professional law enforcement officers, state insurance regulators, prosecutors, insurance executives, researchers, legal experts and consumer advocates.

JAPANESE INSURERS ON BANCASSURANCE

Japanese insurance companies are pursuing new customer and product strategies due to regulatory reforms that are opening the banking sector as a distribution channel for insurance products, according to a survey of senior executives at one-third of the insurance companies in Japan.

More than two-thirds (67%) of Japanese insurers surveyed said that they would pursue new customer strategies, and three-quarters (76%) said they would pursue new product strategies as a result of regulatory reforms that come into full effect next year, allowing banks in Japan to distribute insurance products. The sale of insurance products by banks is also known as "bancassurance."

Respondents of the study from Bermuda-based Accenture said that ongoing regulatory reforms such as bancassurance have helped bring a greater variety of products (81%) and service improvement initiatives (70%) to the country's insurance marketplace.

N. AMERICAN P&C INSURERS SLOW TO ADOPT PROCESSES

According to a Bermuda-based Accenture-conducted survey of North American and European P&C insurers, the North American insurance industry is slow to adopt claims systems and processes that strengthen service, reduce costs and deliver returns on investment.

In fact, less than half (44%) of North American insurers use advanced claims segmentation-techniques in which claims are categorized by factors such as claim complexity, customer claim history and customer profile in order to streamline processing cycles and insure precise and accurate handling.

U.S. LONG-TERM DISABILITY CLAIMS INCREASING

The number of Long-term disability claims among the U.S. workforce is growing at a faster rate than growth of the workforce, according to a review released by Portland, Maine-based Council for Disability Awareness (CDA).

According to the review, more than 500,000 individuals received long-term disability insurance payments from CDA members in 2006, resulting in claims payments in excess of $7.2 billion-a 7.5% increase in payments made in 2005.

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