Today like never before, Insurance companies are facing huge demands brought about by the quickly changing business environment, new competitors, new regulations, modern technologies and increasing customer demand. To compete most effectively, Insurance companies must make investments in technology that can provide sustainable competitive differentiation for them in terms of speed, flexibility and effective communication with policyholders and business partners. For the Insurance sector, competitive success depends on data that is sent and received quickly.
Everyday, more and more demands are made on the IT structure but that doesn’t mean an increment in the IT expense of a company as this has been the fear of many Insurance companies. Though the sector is beginning to adopt IT in its operations, the rate of deployment is slow and the sector is expected to look forward to better packages that are more robust. Insurers that can solve the inherent data challenges and secure the necessary expertise are those that can use analytics both at the micro level of pricing and at the macro level of product-portfolio and line-of-business performance to carve out competitive advantage in an increasingly commoditized business.
With modern technology, Insurance companies can run a paperless office, driven by online forms and digital signatures. Insurance companies could get their agents and associates online, doing business better, faster and cheaper. It can deploy software whose functionality includes online policy inquiry for billing and claims information, quoting, application submission and issuance.
All Insurance companies should create converged networks, simply because they are so relevant to this information-intensive business. Doing so earlier rather than later provides early-mover advantages as well as greater flexibility for future expansion. Clearly, security has emerged not only as a business concern, but as a customer concern as well. As such, perhaps it’s time for Insurance companies to be a little more forthcoming about their IT security efforts.
Security is a critical factor in protecting the reputations of an Insurance company. Because Insurance service companies compile vast amounts of confidential information pertaining to their customers that must be protected against possible access by unauthorized parties, there is a huge challenge in preventing information leakage and data thefts. There is no other option, but to rely on endpoint security to minimize the risk of data breaches.
There is also the need to protect communication. Email has become a mission-critical application and the Insurance Company cannot operate without it but electronic messaging is also a potential security risk and the sector should think of a scalable way to protect sensitive emails, preferably a cost-effective application that has no footprint and is integrated in the mail flow. Even the industry’s heavy reliance on the Blackberry® must still be structured and secured.
Insurance companies should also deploy solutions that allow them to centrally control, monitor and record how data is uploaded and downloaded from portable devices to laptop and desktop computers. It will ensure that unauthorized transactions are blocked, monitored and communicated real time. The value of Thin Client solution in this regard must be explored.
Web-based automation system for the insurance sector provides an efficient method to sell, quote issues and manage policies from anywhere. It centralizes an insurers’ information and reduces workload associated with tracking and managing an insurance policy. The automation also allows for complete control of users access to an insurers database and it also opens communication channels through all levels of the organization.
Web-based processing for agents is a mature business practice though the price of web-enabled processing has kept some companies from investing in it and realizing its benefits. These processing capabilities will also enable agents to immediately access billing and claims information, view images of printed policies and generate reports using the Internet.
For insurance companies to stay on top and in touch in such competitive environment, they should deploy the technology that will keep their agents in constant communication with clients with easy access to market and corporate data and that would mean greater productivity and profitability.
Going mobile also gives insurers, brokers and agents the opportunity to strengthen their relationships with their end-users while establishing a richer and more responsive customer experience. Incase of field activities, agents may face situations where they have questions on policy payments, endorsements or reinstatements, or an inquiry about the status of a claim, they have to make phone calls to get information. This process is cumbersome, time consuming and often uncertain because there are times they require feedback during off-hours or there are cases where the employees responsible for addressing agents’ requests may simply be unavailable. There is need for the sector to employ appropriate wireless technology that will enable agents access the information they want and answer their customers’ questions immediately.
The ultimate purpose is to help insurance agents achieve greater customer satisfaction through quick response to customer questions, and to help them capture additional sales. Deploying these technologies will surely reduce human resource allocations necessary to answer phoned inquiries and save cash by cutting phone service expenses. The 21st century insurance company should as well adopt solutions for Contact center management using IP technology so that they can monitor calls and this will enable immediate action in all areas of concern and be able to route calls to the most relevant person thereby providing customers with a satisfying user experience.
In order to actualize the evolution of what has now been described as the features of the ‘21st Century Insurance Company’, preparations are currently in high gear by frontline strategic business publicity management company, Private Media Mart Limited in collaboration with Nigeria Insurance Association (NIA), to host the inaugural edition of their Annual Insurance Technology Workshop in Lagos come September.
By the time this event takes off, it will afford the Nigerian Insurance sector the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the current technological advancements specifically meant for the sector. By deploying most of the technologies that will be showcased at the event, the Insurance sector in Nigeria will definitely start adorning itself with the garb of a real 21st Century Insurance sector
By Grace Obiaigwe
Grace Obiaigwe is an ICT commentator and works with Private Media Mart Limited in Lagos.