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Plymouth Rock Assurance Offers E-Reminder Service to Mass. Drivers

Plymouth Rock Assurance hopes its e-reminder service proves to be a valuable tool to customers and noncustomers alike.

PLYMOUTH ROCK Assurance (The Plymouth Rock Co.; $1.06 billion in 2008 written and managed premium) hopes that the State of Massachusetts' loss is the Boston-based carrier's gain. Plymouth Rock has picked up a ball dropped by the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) and is using it to provide service to noncustomers.

Since May the carrier has been offering an e-mail alert program to Massachusetts drivers that reminds them of upcoming tasks required by the RMV, such as license renewals, registration renewals and annual auto inspections. Users only need a valid Massachusetts driver's license and an e-mail address to sign up for the free program. Most of those notifications used to be made via regular mail by the RMV itself, but that service has been eliminated, the department announced last November. Other carriers and agents in the state have developed similar programs.

The new program -- branded as the MYLES (Make Your Life Easier Services) eReminder Service -- is a simple extension of the carrier's eServices reminder program for customers, which has been in place for approximately one year, according to Plymouth Rock's VP and chief regulatory counsel, Paula Gold, who was part of the internal team formed to market MYLES to the public. "The underlying ability to do this was already there," Gold relates.

Plymouth Rock Assurance decided to expand the program to noncustomers based on the service's success among its customer base and a desire to generate positive brand awareness, something that has become increasingly important in the Massachusetts auto insurance market since managed competition was introduced to the state last year, Gold reports. "We're in a [more] competitive world now, and becoming branded and having your name known is more important than it was two years ago," she explains.

The eReminder process, written entirely in Java, was developed primarily in-house, according to Jim Flynn, director of IT, Plymouth Rock Assurance. "Once the user has input the e-mail address they wish to have the reminders delivered to, and the driver's license number into the eReminders Web page, the information is written to a database," Flynn details. "On a regular basis another process reads the records written to the file and submits the records to the RMV for information retrieval. If the driver's license is valid, we write the information returned from the registry to a database that is used to initiate the reminder notices."

That database is then scanned at scheduled intervals for any expiration dates that are within 30 days of the current date, Flynn continues. "If the expiration date has been reached, the details are passed to our e-mail engine for the creation of the e-mail to the consumer," he says, noting that personal information is not disclosed in the e-mail reminders.

A key integration challenge of the project was, of course, establishing connectivity to the RMV to retrieve up-to-date information. Because the RMV runs on a mainframe, the carrier used an RMV link product from Hartford-based Insurity Solutions (the product has since been re-branded as LexisNexis MassXpress) to access the data, Flynn notes. "If you do not have mainframe or AS/400 systems, you must go through a vendor to retrieve data from the registry," he explains.

Credit Where IT's Due

Gold credits a member of Plymouth Rock Assurance's IT team with the idea to expand the program to noncustomers. According to Flynn, a member of the IT team brought up the idea at a joint meeting of IT and business personnel. At the meeting the group discussed the media uproar caused by the RMV's then-recent decision to stop its own reminder service. The employee suggested that the program could be expanded to further extend the carrier's "more than just insurance" corporate slogan.

"Although the idea was proposed by an IT member of the team, had the business representatives on this team not recognized and supported the idea, it would have been nothing more than a glimmer of thought," Flynn comments. "So in my opinion the development of this idea was truly a business-IT partnership."

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