October 1, 2003 by Sean Hutchison, Fort Nocs Networks
For a company to uphold its corporate brand requires more than just integrating a consistent look and feel into every communication – it means embracing the concept of “brand critical”. By definition, mission critical refers to those elements of an organization that are an absolute necessity for revenue generation. This also refers to the elements required to maintain the trust and values communicated by an organization’s brand. The two, however, go hand in hand. If customers do not have trust in an organization’s ability to deliver on their promise, then that customer relationship could be left in need of repair.
A number of insurance companies across Canada have invested heavily in the Internet and other related technologies as a means to automate their business processes and improve their client relationships. Others are more cautious about the Internet, taking just baby steps by first using the technology only to communicate biographical information about their company, and then slowly adding new functionality that has a defined business need. Regardless of how many business processes have been automated by the Internet, a website is foremost a channel that customers will use to gather information and make decisions as to which vendor to award their business.
In this industry in particular, it is paramount that an insurance company’s brand becomes synonymous with trust. This means that wherever that brand image exists it must be protected, secure and available to existing and potential customers when they need it.
Having a defined strategy is a requirement for all companies doing any form of business over the Internet. Even for insurance companies simply using the Internet as an advertising or communications medium, planning is still of paramount importance to ensure that the brand’s integrity is maintained online.
The most important component of using the Internet as a business tool is maintaining trust with customers and partners. Businesses engaging in online commerce need to recognize that at least 60% of the overall online budget should be allocated to support and maintenance activities.
And, since insurers are not in the business of running an Internet data center, support and maintenance is a function that is better left to the experts. In particular, a third- party web hosting and management company with the expertise in website security and site performance can help manage and mitigate technology risk, but the choice of who to partner with is crucial.
A good technology partner will allow companies to start small and grow into a hosting and management infrastructure that will meet their needs over time. When planning to establish or maintain a high profile site, it is critical for the chosen hosting and management provider to offer more than just a connection to the Internet. The provider should accommodate a high availability/uptime service level agreement that ensures all web properties are running whenever customers need them. The provider should also have domain expertise in security and be willing to invest in the security infrastructure, policies and practices that govern a website.
Even if a website just provides basic company information, it represents a valuable brand that must be protected at all times. That said, it is not necessary to over-invest in a technology infrastructure to support a barebones website
Once “risk tolerance” has been defined and budget restrictions identified, insurers can work with their technology partner of choice to determine the appropriate investment in infrastructure redundancy and protective hardware and software tools. The key here is in finding a partner who fully understands technology security in areas such as encryption/certification, firewall protection, intrusion detection and security processes.
The science behind building a website is becoming less complex and people with the appropriate skills to develop and manage a site are abundant. The main challenge of website management, however, is now defining and implementing the human operations procedures that ensure site security, as well as maintaining that the content is fresh and functionality matches consumer needs.
It is often said that on the Internet, ‘content is king’ and to a large extent, this is true. To foster ongoing, meaningful relationships with customers requires high quality content that is refreshed on a regular basis. Although the technology powering a website may not be complex, insurance companies must still consider implementing a content management process that outlines those responsible for contributing content and frequency, and those responsible for content approval and publishing.
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