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Insurers Must Better Connect With Consumers On the Go

Posted by Sam Friedman, Insurance research leader, Deloitte Services LP, on July 02, 2014

While many insurers have adapted basic online services for mobile platforms, the Holy Grail of differentiation has yet to be seized by most industry players. To accomplish that feat, carriers must capitalize on the unique capabilities of smartphones and tablets to engage more fully with both clients and their own personnel over such devices.

That may be easier said than done, at least when it comes to consumers. A recent survey by Deloitte found the majority of respondents unaware of basic mobile options already offered by insurers. Another problem is that opportunities to make use of current insurer apps are usually few and far between — such as when renewing a policy or filing a claim.

Yet even in this relatively early stage of development, with a large percentage of policyholders not even cognizant of what insurers have to offer, Deloitte's survey found that 13 percent of respondents would consider changing carriers based on the availability of more advanced mobile services. That figure jumps to 30 percent for ages 21 to 29.

Still, Deloitte's survey found that for now only 19 percent characterize the ability to deal with their insurer on a mobile device as extremely or very important. That's unlikely to change if customer contact over mobile platforms remains generally infrequent and the transactions routine.

Therefore, to become a game-changing factor, insurer apps should prompt interaction on a regular basis and in a significant way.

One prime example is the transition of telematics fueling usage-based auto insurance programs from a monitoring device installed in a vehicle to an app downloaded on the insured's smartphone. Deloitte's survey found more than half of respondents willing to opt in and test-drive telematics monitoring over their mobile.

Telematic mobile apps could warn policyholders about hazardous road conditions, facilitate roadside assistance, locate lost or stolen vehicles, and create a virtual geo-fence to keep track of teenage and elderly drivers, among a number of other location-sensitive services.

Gamification could also be employed as a catalyst to download a telematics app if insurers provide rewards for improvements in a driver's performance, as well as for "beating" those in a broader policyholder pool. Carriers could offer premium discounts and higher deductibles to "winners," or perhaps even reward points that could be used towards the purchase of related products and services. Telematics could thereby make the customer experience more engaging, gratifying, and perhaps even fun — certainly not an attribute traditionally associated with insurance!

In the meantime, mobile technology could enable more personal two-way communication with policyholders, as Deloitte's survey found nearly one-in-three respondents very keen on the notion of speaking "face-to-face" with their insurance agent or claims representative over a video link on their smartphone.

Mobile technology can also be leveraged to provide life insurance and annuity policyholders with real-time access and user-friendly tools to monitor how their products are working individually and in unison to achieve personal financial goals.

On the property and casualty side, claims reporting and processing can be greatly enhanced through such technology. Adjusters and fraud investigators can literally hold a policyholder's data in the palm of their hands, aggregating information from in-house systems and third parties on their mobile devices. Both insureds and adjusters can also use smartphones and tablets to record damages, take statements, check coverage details, identify the most convenient repair facilities, and file reports from an accident or disaster site.

In time, telemedicine practiced over mobile devices could facilitate claims management for workers' comp and auto insurers, while carriers may one day make use of mobile data from drones to assess damaged roofs and catastrophe losses.

Mobile technology has become integral to the daily lives of a growing number of consumers. Basic mobile capabilities are therefore table stakes for insurers today. However, those that neglect to innovate and differentiate their mobile capabilities to engage consumers more frequently and meaningfully risk becoming obsolete in a rapidly evolving digital world.

What more might insurers do to better capitalize on mobile opportunities? Check out our article in Deloitte University Press as well as our "Closer Look" on the subject.

Sam Friedman (samfriedman@deloitte.com) is insurance research leader with Deloitte's Center for Financial Services in New York. Follow Sam on Twitter at @SamOnInsurance, as well as on LinkedIn.

As used in this document, "Deloitte" means Deloitte LLP [and its subsidiaries]. Please see www.deloitte.com/us/about for a detailed description of the legal structure of Deloitte LLP and its subsidiaries. Certain services may not be available to attest clients under the rules and regulations of public accounting.

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