Boston — Given today’s increasingly competitive insurance marketplace, with insurance companies, asset managers and banks all competing to sell products to both brokers and consumers, carriers must examine ways to optimize their sales force, according to Rachel Alt-Simmons, senior analyst with Needham, Mass.-based TowerGroup Inc. at its annual conference last week in Boston. As part of her presentation, “The Office Hits the Road: Mobility Application Trends in Insurance Sales Distribution,” she highlighted how mobile devices, although still undergoing rapid changes and development, if leveraged properly, can provide insurers with a competitive advantage, and increased sales productivity and market share.

Carriers’ wholesaling organizations have begun to do this by deploying sales personnel in the field equipped with mobile devices, such as smart phones and laptops, capable of accessing information and intelligence in real-time. While this may seem like common sense, the first step in properly utilizing the technology is to develop a customer relationship management (CRM) strategy.

“In the past,” Alt-Simmons said, “CRM had gotten a bad rap, but since Salesforce.com has made the technology cost effective and within reach [of most insurers], moving CRM into the field makes it more worthwhile and actionable.” Therefore, if used correctly, not only are the productivity gains of the agents significant, but CRM-enabled devices can also helpstandardize processes, and improve data collection, data quality and latency.

As part of this mobile CRM deployment, carriers must devise a strategy for managing contact information, visualization of information, transactional data and conducting integrated analyses. But, in order to realize the best results, she said, insurance companies must deploy the technology across all lines of business.
 
Access to business applications on the road is another key part of a successful mobile strategy. Alt-Simmons believes deploying business applications on mobile devices will enhance customer service, so long as the software is actionable, relevant to the user’s tasks, functional and easy-to-use. She cited Hartford Life, Hartford, Conn., which provides agents with the capability to view life insurance application status on-demand. Since implementation, the company has demonstrated differentiated customer service by receiving more than 1,000 hits from wholesalers in 40 days post-launch. Aflac, Columbus, Ga,, also provides its employees with Aflac Anywhere technology, which alerts individual agents when an important event occurs.

Embedding analytics in the sales process is the next major step. “[Carriers need to] put the sales force where the action is,” she said. “[Predictive analytics] helps the sales force to create more relevant interactions, target the right opportunities and provide better customer service.”

As an example, Alt-Simmons cited Lincoln Financial Distributors as using predictive analytics to profile and segment brokers, increased their overall broker retention, identify the most effective types of customer interactions and target cross-sell/up-sell campaigns.

She also called on carriers to, as part of their mobile strategy, to build a mobile architecture that fosters flexibility and reusability, as well as to create a life cycle plan for each device. The security of mobile devices is also paramount. She believes all mobile devices should also have some form of a remote kill feature that can wipe clean the device’s memory in case of loss or theft.

In the end, once having navigated through the copious ch ices of technology available, with the right plan in place to effectively utilize mobile devices—leveraging some form of CRM, business applications and analytics—mobility is already, and will continue to be, a proven means of increasing productivity and gaining market share.

Source: TowerGroup

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