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UnumProvident leverages the Internet to address the training needs of independent distributors in the individual market.

In response to distributors' requests, UnumProvident (Chattanooga; $48.5 billion in assets) has introduced a free "virtual training academy" for independent brokers who sell the carrier's individual income protection and/or long-term care insurance products. Sponsored by the carrier's Enhanced Sales Program (ESP), which was formed to address the challenges of individual sales, the program delivers sessions via the Web and a toll-free phone line on topics such as underwriting requirements, initiating sales and completing applications.

"We did this in the spirit of giving our producers the best support they could have," says Linda Davenport, training and communications developer, UnumProvident. "This was the best way that we could provide [support] for them."

Davenport says the virtual training initiative is part of the ESP's efforts to provide sales support through a centralized sales center with Web and call center channels. Training was frequently requested by the sales force, but live, one-on-one training was not feasible. "We looked for a way to reach the producers in a time frame and manner that was convenient for them - and was economical so that it could be sustained," Davenport says.

The sessions first were crafted in response to specific requests. "Then we just decided to make it available to all our producers in our database," Davenport explains. Currently, the carrier delivers sessions several times a month.

The Internet portion of the session is delivered as a Microsoft (Redmond, Wash.) PowerPoint presentation that is transmitted through Avaya's (Basking Ridge, N.J.) Spectel Data-Xchange Webcast software; a trainer delivers the spoken part of the session via telephone. "There's no chargeback," Davenport comments, and the distributors are getting "an entire package of training support."

Atlanta-based SilverPop manages e-mail invitations and registration for the training sessions. "SilverPop also allows us to communicate with 40,000 to 50,000 producers per month with smaller bites of training and information in an e-comm, newsletter-type setting," Davenport says. "We've enjoyed enormously using that technology because it not only lets us do the communications, but also lets us track back through open rates to see whether we're reaching producers effectively and giving them what they want."

Anthony O'Donnell has covered technology in the insurance industry since 2000, when he joined the editorial staff of Insurance & Technology. As an editor and reporter for I&T and the InformationWeek Financial Services of TechWeb he has written on all areas of information ... View Full Bio

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