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3 elements of a successful mobile insurance strategy.

Byline: Stephanie Lynn Trunzo

You're enjoying a deserved ski vacation when a notification from your insurance provider's app pops up on your phone. It's an alert that your preferred plumber has been dispatched to investigate a leak at your house, a leak detected by a smart in-home sensor.

This is not science fiction, but rather an already developing scenario for insurance companies embracing mobile possibilities. With an expected 6.1 billion smartphone users by 2020 and the rise of other portable devices such as tablets, mobile is a natural next step for industries that can traditionally be slow to adapt.

An increasing number of insurance companies have unveiled mobile apps and social media strategies, transforming tasks such as filing claims, accessing account information and receiving additional support into mobile experiences. However, the best mobile app is nothing without the right strategy. To earn and retain business, insurance companies need to inspire confidence and demonstrate clear value for users.

Multiple factors are altering how users expect to interact with their insurance providers on mobile. The shift to the millennial generation as policyholders means mobile is an expectation, not an option. Customers also expect the same high-quality experience and security on a mobile device that they receive when purchasing insurance via desktop or in person. From health to home to auto, insurance providers must engineer strategies that meet a variety of consumer demands.

To ensure that the right tactics are incorporated, providers should consider the following three tips:

1. Mobile can benefit both policyholders and providers

A mobile insurance app should offer features and capabilities designed to find efficiencies for both policyholders and insurance companies.

For example, mobile can improve first notice of loss practices for each party. When there is flooding in a bathroom, a user's first instinct may be to call a plumber, but they may never even reach out to their insurance company until a bill arrives. This leaves agents very little control over costs and repairs, and providers end up paying out against a claim rather than helping to control quality and cost in the first place.

In order to be involved in the problem solving process, insurance companies can use mobile to position themselves as the obvious choice for first notice of loss. Here, a mobile app can include a vast ecosystem of recommendations (local contractors, referred or credible service providers) to make crisis management easier. Rather than having to find a plumber or search for deals, policyholders can simply turn to their app, notify their insurance company and automatically be linked to the best plumber available.

Having insurers involved in each step of the claims process adds value for both users and providers, making the entire insurance policy more beneficial. Policyholders receive trusted action faster, and insurance companies regain control over financial claims as the first notice of loss.

Related: 16 of the coolest P&C insurer mobile apps

(Photo: Thinkstock)

2. It's time for insurance to be forward-thinking

To establish clear value while encouraging users to engage with a mobile app, insurance companies must be forward-thinking. Providers should consider the benefits of cutting-edge technology such as home telematics and the Internet of Things (IoT).

Continuing the plumbing example above, insurance providers can use the IoT to make customers' policies more fruitful by installing sensors in their homes that link to the mobile app. Like a smoke detector alerts fire departments to a fire, these sensors can flag insurance companies to potential threats. Devices placed near plumbing can identify high levels of moisture in the air, notify the insurance company of a presumed leak and contact homeowners via notifications in real time.

Sensors can often detect a problem well before a homeowner would, and this type of technology can be created for anything that's insured. These preventive measures save policyholders and providers a great deal of time and money. When provided free of charge or as a part of customer's premium, IoT solutions become an invaluable element in any mobile strategy. These tools also remove some of the burden from the policyholder, as they're no longer solely responsible for maintaining and enacting their insurance policy.

Related: The kitchen of the future knows what's in your fridge

3. Let's not forget the agent

Beyond policyholders and providers, mobile strategies have to work for insurance agents, too. On the surface, it might seem like more self-service mobile capabilities will reduce the need for agents to directly interact with customers. However, insurance companies can create mobile platforms that take busy work off agents' plates, freeing them up for more client facing tasks.

When interacting on mobile, insurance companies can personalize the user experience online, similar to the way individual agents do offline. For example, a welcome message from a local agent can pop up when a user logs on, or providers can create a "quick call button" that customers can use to access more information. Providers can also develop an interface that allows agents to see all of their clients at once, streamlining their efforts to do better work faster. When agents are viewed as a part of the design process, they can become a valuable part of any mobile strategy.

What's more, over time, the volume of user data made available by mobile apps can enable and empower agents. Predictive information will help agents reach out to the right people, perhaps to make a sales decision based on demographic information. These databases also will help agents remain forward thinking by assisting them in developing predictive strategies. This can help when a new policy must be purchased or when changes to a policy should be made. For example, if an agent knows that a policyholder has a child turning 16, the agent can push out an alert to this customer's mobile device informing her that her automotive insurance policy may need updates.

A thoughtful mobile strategy can serve everyone involved -- users, providers and agents -- and the channel itself allows insurance companies to interact with customers in a non-intrusive manner. Mobile interactions increase insurance efficiencies, which lowers cost, adds value to existing clients and helps companies extend relationships and policies into the future. In the insurance world, a top-notch mobile strategy can even help companies earn new business through developing positive brand affinity and recommendations.

Insurance is a well established industry, but its recent intersection with mobile will change how providers reach and interact with policyholders in the future. With the right strategy, insurance companies can leverage the evolving mobile space and offer policyholders increased value in new and powerful ways.

Stephanie Lynn Trunzo serves as the chief digital officer and chief operating officer at Raleigh, N.C.-based mobile development company PointSource.
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Copyright 2016 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Property and Casualty 360
Date:Jun 7, 2016
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