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Bill Hartnett, GM, Insurance Solutions Group, Microsoft
Bill Hartnett, GM, Insurance Solutions Group, Microsoft
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Equipping the Field to Improve Service

Insurance Tech Outlook 2009: Agents empowered with systems and devices are in a unique position to deliver increased value to the firm, says Microsoft's Bill Hartnett.

It is important to empower agents with the ability to improve their quality of service because they are the public face of your brand. There is also a benefit to connecting agents closely with the decision-making centers of the business because they are closest to the market and often the first to recognize new trends and new opportunities. In addition, systems that empower independent agents could have the added benefit of prompting those agents to write more policies.

Bill Hartnett
GM, Insurance Solutions Group, Microsoft (Redmond, Wash.)If agents continue to occupy an important position in the value chain, insurers can empower them with a complete view of the customer relationship, in addition to providing ways to quickly find and engage internal experts and resources (such as with telepresence, instant messaging, enterprise search, RSS feeds and expertise location services). These services can be provided through either Web-based interfaces, mobile devices or unified communications that span voice, e-mail, text chat and conferencing, or integrated into role-based business applications.

Also, Internet sales are disintermediating simple, compliance-driven business such as auto insurance, where price and convenience are the driving factors leading to policy issuance. But as insurers diversify their lines and offer increasingly customized policies, the value of agents as simplifiers of complexity and bearers of accountability becomes greater.

Mobile claims adjusters are now frequently armed with mobile devices or tablet PCs that connect directly to business systems to speed claims processing. By also connecting claims adjusters to CRM data, insurers can position adjusters to supplement the role of agents as ambassadors of their brand and improve customer satisfaction by knowing more about the customer's history and relationship with the company. In addition, mobile CRM and unified communications capabilities could be used to link adjusters with body shops, contractors and rental car firms for integrated calendaring and collaboration to improve the claims experience while also shortening the claims process and possibly lowering the associated expense.

People are more adaptable than IT systems. If a firm's people can connect with the information, processes and contacts they need to respond quickly, they can deliver better service and make better decisions in real time. Look for information-work applications that integrate all of the capabilities that people need in their roles into a single, accessible environment, rather than specialized "best of breed" solutions that require extensive IT participation to develop, deploy and modify.

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