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I can be clumsy at times, so it was actually quite an upset that I made it from 2008 until last October without cracking an iPhone screen (I dropped it putting it into my pocket, rendering the top half unusable). Regression to the mean kicked in earlier this week when I dropped my phone again in a parking lot, and when I found it, was greeted with the most gruesome tech gore I have ever seen.

But Past Nate had come through. When I bought that phone to replace the one I had broken in October, I bought insurance as well. I correctly calculated that I was at risk of doing more damage to my phone, despite doubling down on checking where my pockets are. So, I dug up the insurance information and went to file a claim online.

It's a minor thrill when I actually get to use some of the things I write about, even if they tend to be at terrible times personally. Here I was, filing a claim online for an insurance product that I had bought via API at the point of sale. The ecosystem is working! Except my claim, according to the website, was invalid. I had to contact the call center. And I had an hour to do it before they closed for the night and my claim would be delayed by that much longer.

Quite frankly, my experience with the phone agent was quick and pleasant. Within 48 hours, I had my new phone charging up ready to go. But I knew then that I had to write about this real-world test of insurance digitalization.

The minor inconvenience of having to call a (likely not very busy) call center for a claim that was very likely to be approved didn't make me decide to give up the insurance or anything like that. But I was a little disappointed for the industry and the carrier that my claim would be recorded as a call-center interaction, not a web interaction, because for some reason the synapses of the code didn't fire correctly for my situation.

I never had an opportunity to say that I had attempted to use the website (except in conversation with my agent), nor did I get a claim "started" online or anything like that. As far as this carrier is concerned, I just dialed in the claim. Now I have to make a decision, as a person who is singularly interested in the digital transformation of the insurance industry, about whether I try to inform them of what really happened. If they are noticing low website volume, it may not be for lack of trying on their customers' part, and shouldn't be interpreted that the web channel isn't popular for these very easy claims.

I was able to attempt to file my claim twice in less time than I spent on the phone with the agent, and it wasn't like he was talking my ear off, or being inefficient. But there is a reason why the industry and customers want to switch to digital. I didn't want to have to use my old, also-broken phone to make a call right then, when I had just entered data twice and then had to relay it to another person so they could enter it.

Bug fixes and website audits aren't sexy, and they can be irritating, but they are crucial to spurring consumer adoption of digital solutions in insurance. The more times a customer can't complete their task online, the less likely they are to believe they ever will be able to -- and they will default to the legacy channels that insurers are trying to diversify from. In certain cases, they may even just switch to an insurer with a good digital rating, if that's what they really want. And the carrier they left, which may have been trying in earnest to transform, never had a chance.

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