Production support staff and marketing specialists at Esurance Inc. use a Web monitoring application to correct errors that deter customers from purchasing insurance online and to improve the overall performance of the company's Web site.But the San Francisco-based direct-to-consumer auto insurer is finding the technology useful in software testing as well. "We use (the Web monitoring application) to identify problems that might otherwise go undetected during our testing process," says Marj Davies, director of Internet operations at Esurance.

The software-called RealiTea from TeaLeaf Technology Inc., San Francisco-enables Esurance to set up error alerts on its Web site. As a result, when the company releases updates to the site-for compliance and new functionality-it uses TeaLeaf to set alerts in the test environmen-alerts that it plans to set on the live site. This way, "we find problems early on," Davies says.

Since Esurance has been using TeaLeaf for testing, the company is issuing cleaner releases, with a higher percentage of on-time release dates and fewer temporary busy signals in the production environment, according to Davies.

In addition, the application enables developers to be more productive because they don't have to recreate defects when they're assigned to fix them. That's because the software encapsulates each user session, which can be retrieved and viewed later.

The relevant encapsulated file is attached to each assignment in the company's defect tracking system. Then, when developers are assigned a defect, they simply click on the executable file and the error is recreated for them.

Esurance uses the application for other testing as well. Specifically, its uses RealiTea to test its online transactions with its partners, which include ComparisonMarket and AnswerFinancial.

The company uses XML to transfer data between its site and its partners' sites. The production team can see problems with the XML transfer of data in real-time and quickly resolve problems. "We've been able to bring more partners online, more quickly, with fewer errors," Davies says. "And we've been able to do that without increasing our headcount."

TeaLeaf will also be invaluable when resolving claims, according to Gary Tolman, president and CEO of Esurance. "Believe it or not, we have claims situations where the customer and the company do not agree on what has happened," he says. "We've had a number of cases where customers have an accident first, then they go in and buy the coverage an hour later and file the claim."

Because RealiTea records every session on the site, Esurance can verify those contractual agreements. "We had an issue with a claim early on and ended up in court," Tolman says. "The judge wanted to see what the person actually did on the site. And we didn't have this technology back then. It would have been extremely helpful. The judge would have seen this person didn't do what they said they did."

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