The role of smartphones and other mobile devices has changed our lives dramatically. In years gone by, employees saw the occasional executive wielding a Blackberry – a ‘nice to have’ perk that could be used to reply to emails on the go.
Fast forward to today and mobile devices are now a critical workplace tool. Walk into any office and you’re likely to see a majority of employees using smartphones and other mobile devices to carry out work-related activities. And reliance on these devices has resulted in huge changes to how companies leverage mobile solutions to conduct tasks, monitor workflows and communicate with customers and clients.
As mobile technology becomes mainstream, the insurance industry is moving rapidly to embrace mobile solutions to gain anytime, anywhere access to people, information and applications.
“We live in a technologically driven world,” says Felicity Boath, Marketing Coordinator at Ebix Australia. “It’s hard to think of an industry that digital technology hasn’t had some sort of effect on. So naturally, clients increasingly expect their brokers to be able to access any of their information with speed, wherever they happen to be.
“Insurance businesses need to look beyond the mobile device itself and find mobile software that is really going to make the most of their employees’ work time – whether in the office or on the road. Mobile solutions allow brokers to leave the paperwork at the office and still have client information at their fingertips.”
Productivity, efficiency and service
These days mobile solutions are not just an effective tool for the insurance industry, but an essential means of increasing efficiency or productivity.
“The ability to access client data, provide accurate information and service to clients, and securely communicate directly from mobile devices, has become an integral part of the broker’s day-to-day activities,” Irene Kendall, Director at Technosoft Solutions, explains.
“In particular, brokers need mobile solutions when they’re on the road so they can perform work functions, keep in touch with clients and stay linked with the office.
“Mobile solutions, in all their forms, are the key to brokers being productive and able to provide high levels of serviceability to clients.”
“It comes down to appreciating the productivity and efficiency that mobile solutions and apps can provide,” agrees Ebix’s Felicity Boath. “Sure, some enterprise software may be accessible via a tablet or smartphone. But has it been specifically designed for a mobile device?
“Responsive design, a simplified and optimised user interface, fundamental functions and communications tools are the essential attributes of mobile solutions and apps. These are the things that make them so effective and valuable in the work environment.”
The senior broker perspective
For Ross Hayward, Director at Premium Funding, one of Australia’s largest independent premium finance companies, it all comes down to the user experience.
“Obviously we are a data-driven industry and mobile devices are just another way of accessing and transmitting data,” he says. “So the big issue facing our industry moving forward with respect to mobile devices is the user interface.
“There is a huge amount of data held on a client level, so ensuring appropriate user interfaces that make data workable and accessible on a small screen is essential.”
Mobile solutions allow brokers to leave the paperwork at the office and still have client information at their fingertips.
Demand driving supply
So is the insurance industry at the cutting edge when it comes to developing and embracing mobile solutions? Or is it playing catch up? According to Felicity Boath from Ebix, it’s neither.
“Insurance broking is a niche industry. Therefore it doesn’t make sense for us to be at the forefront of mobile solutions development,” she says.
“It makes better business sense to always be aware of new technology developments, take what we need from them and then shape them to meet the needs of brokers.”
However Irene Kendall from Technosoft Solutions thinks that the insurance sector remains a little behind some industries when it comes to technology offerings.
“Demand really needs to drive supply,” she explains. “Brokers and, in particular, management, must embrace and understand the benefits these applications can provide to their staff and then encourage their use in a meaningful and productive way.
“This in turn will drive investment in better applications and create a cutting-edge environment within which brokers can operate their businesses and service their clients.”
The young broker perspective
The rate of change in technology is creating a demanding environment for providers. Speed of development is a challenge, but speed to market isn’t everything, says Boath.
“Business apps are likely to take much longer to develop than an everyday app you find in the App Store. This comes down to the complexity of the enterprise software that the app is modelled on,” she says.
“So our industry’s mobile solutions may be slower to market than your average everyday app, but we wouldn’t do it any other way. It would compromise the quality of the product.”
For Premium Funding’s Ross Haywood, the key to providing a good mobile solution is getting out into the field with users in order to understanding their needs and challenges.
“It’s important to ask questions and never assume,” he says. “Apps are all the rage, but they need to be useful. They need to fill a void or streamline a process. Too often programmers write systems that are just not usable and don’t serve this purpose.”
New mobile solutions are always under construction. And what lies ahead ought to be worth waiting for, says Technosoft’s Irene Kendall.
“Some of the innovations we will see include web-based applications that communicate with your clients; website functionality that gives clients access to their data; document management apps and document transfer solutions that are secure and compliant.
“Also expect better cloud solutions for hosting, and new hardware that fully equips brokers who are on the road.”
Apps are all the rage, but they need to be useful. They need to fill a void or streamline a process.
The aim of the game with all these developments is to provide brokers with more in their armament to build better relationships and play the role of trusted insurance adviser wherever they are.
Kendall predicts that a broker’s world will change significantly in the future. “The focus will move from selling a product to creating a relationship that endures from the provision of exceptional service via cutting-edge technology,” she says.
Automating client on-boarding procedures is one way Premium Funding’s Ross Hayward foresees mobile solutions as enhancing the service experience.
“I recently saw an app where the user could take a photo of a client’s drivers licence and the app then instantly verified all the details against government databases before entering the information in the office CRM,” Hayward explains. “All compliance and client set-up was taken care of via the app.
“I think the innovations that lie around the corner will mostly be around automation and cost savings leading to increased profitability.”
Felicity Boath from Ebix believes that in the future we will see a rise in customer self-service applications. “This innovation is already prevalent in many other industries,” she notes. “The insurance industry has a lot to gain from customer self-service applications, as they aid in delivering a customer-centric experience.
“Consumers really are spoilt for choice when it comes to the ways in which they can go about transactions. At first glance, it may seem unnecessary. However extending communications channels and transaction preferences is not only pleasing to a wider range of the market, but can give businesses an edge on the competition.”