Independent Broker Resources Inc. (IBRI), which is wholly owned by Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario (IBAO), has recently launched the “Insurance Companion,” a mobile application for insurance brokers.
In collaboration with Waxworks Creative Inc., the mobile app is designed to appear to the end-consumer as though the insurance brokerage created the application itself.
If a brokerage purchases the app, it is branded with the brokerage’s logos and colour schemes, includes all pertinent contact information of a specific location and, if the brokerage has multiple branches, allows clients to select the contact details for their branch of choice. The business address, contact numbers and email addresses used are specified by the brokerage on a branchby-branch basis.
What functionality does the app provide to brokers and, in turn, their customers?
The app’s primary function is to offer the consumer quick and easy access to the brokerage by phone or email, as well as to provide the ability to create accident reports or simple first notice of loss reports on their phone.
The application contains a question set template that follows the traditional accident details wallet card. Beyond capturing the traditional driver and vehicle information electronically, the reports can also collect photos and the GPS location of the reporter. They can include pictures of vehicle damage, drivers’ licences and liability cards, making the reports detailed and quick to capture.
Once complete, the reports are sent via email to an address specified by the brokerage.
BODY SHOP BUILDING
Prior to the app being launched, an offer was extended to insurance companies to provide IBRI with their lists of preferred auto body shops. IBRI continues to add to the list of insurers who have provided auto body shop names, although lists have already been received from the majority of insurers.
The mobile application can use this information, coupled with the GPS location provided by the mobile device, to direct the consumer to the nearest in-surer-approved auto body shop to expedite any repairs. Providing immediate access to information at the point of need can help mitigate claims costs.
In addition to auto body shops, the same functionality directs users to the nearest collision reporting centre, or local police service where no reporting centres exists.
Work continues with broker associations across the country to make the mobile app available nationally.
Why has the application been built the way it has been?
First, the mobile phone has become the average consumer’s primary means of communicating. Through phone, email, text and internet browsing, the phone is now a connection to the world, and the many apps available make the internet and social and professional networks available to the consumer in the manner they want.
For the broker, having a presence on customers’ phones is a continuing reminder that they have chosen you as their insurance provider of choice, offering a tremendous opportunity to reinforce the broker’s branding. For the consumer, it is an easy and simple way to contact his or her broker for all insurance needs.
Second, IBRI wanted to introduce an application into the market quickly, and to signal to insurance companies our interest in working with them to make the application beneficial to them. Although some insurers have already built their own applications, which offer some beneficial functionality for broker customers, IBRI’s belief is that space is best controlled by the brokerage.
With an insurer-built application, the brokerage could potentially lose control of its messaging to its customers. It may also be very difficult to manage and track numerous company applications as consumer needs change.
Perhaps most important is that if brokerages are promoting multiple insurance company applications, they are losing a valuable branding opportunity themselves. The relationship between the broker and the customer is strengthened when the mobile application offered reinforces their own brand.
The last reason speaks more to today’s business environment: Consumer expectations have changed. In an increasingly connected world, there is little doubt that consumers expect more from the businesses that provide the products and services they purchase. The companies that are focusing their businesses on the overall consumer experience are winning customers’ loyalties.
In step with continuing to increase their service levels and accessibility, companies are continually upping consumer expectations of what “good” customer service is.
IBAO is acutely aware of this trend. The association has been conducting consumer surveys for a number of years and is watching consumers’ trending expectations for more and better access to products and services on their terms. The association has focused tremendous effort on educating its membership of insurance brokerages on these trends over the last three to four years.
For brokers, it is important to remember that consumers are not comparing the service provided by your office with that of another broker. The consumer is likely dealing with only one broker and, as such, does not have that available comparison.
Today, all service providers are judged equally by consumers. Brokers need to compare their own service provision against the best service that they recall receiving from another business, regardless of what that product or service actually was.
How does the Insurance Companion fit into this? It is an additional means by which the consumer can choose to communicate with his or her broker. In the event that a consumer needs help, there is a sense of reassurance since that assistance is only an email away. That same help will be there if the consumer requires coverage information.
The application offers consumers that additional touch point.
Last, it is a reinforcement of the broker’s brand, displaying a continuous presence that is available on demand, as needed. For that segment of consumers who want to communicate in this way, they should have the opportunity to do so.
The mobile app initiative is still in the early stages. IBRI will continue to develop the application, expand its functionality for brokers and their customers, and collaborate with insurers to offer services that are company-specific through the broker’s application.
The Guarantee Company has already worked with IBRI to provide additional options for brokers and claims service efficiencies. More are expected to follow, hopefully making the application the best choice for brokers, their customers and their insurers now and into the future.