February 1, 2004 by Lee Slack
Does this sound familiar? It is a Friday afternoon and your favorite client phones you in a panic inquiring about the next bank withdrawal for their automobile policy. What are your options? Call the insurance company call center and wait? Call the insurance company accounting department and wait? Drill through the insurance company Intranet or broker area – eventually getting the information?
Would it not be nice if you could pull up the client’s record in your broker management system, click on a button and receive a response from the insurance company within 20-30 seconds. Or, perhaps be able to provide your customer with a timely update and automatically create an audit trail by writing in your management software an activity that this customer called in, on this date, looking for their account status? And even better, while you have the customer on the phone, you notice that you only have their auto business not their home, and you inquire as to whether or not you can contact them to provide a quote at renewal time and inform them that you are now selling travel insurance and mutual funds to better service their needs?
How about another scenario – your customer phones and informs you that they have purchased a new car, you enter the information into your broker management system, click on your real-time option sending this information immediately to the company. A real-time response is received back from the company indicating that you have forgotten to indicate who the principal driver is – you respond with this information and seconds later you receive the new policy complete with the adjusted premium. You advise the customer of the new amount, print off their new policy along with their liability cards and a nice confirmation letter thanking them for their continued patronage – all to go out in today’s mail.
The above situations sound like familiar business cases, but unfortunately the “technology solution” presented has been far from attainable in the past. In fact, the technology interaction problems experienced by brokers in the past would make the above solution seem like something from the distant future.
However, such an assumption would be inaccurate. “Internet data exchange” technology (IDE) has now provided the means to real-time single-entry, multiple-company interface. With an IDE solution, data is entered once into the broker management system and can then be easily sent to the company. An IDE empowers brokers by enabling real-time access to insurance companies and third-parties from within their broker management software – allowing for maximum sales and service efficiency. An IDE allows for “any-to-any” data translation and communication in a secure and reliable means via the Internet. The “any-to-any” means the technology can easily be deployed with any software system, for instance, from any vendor that supplies brokers with management software.
IDE technology provides for a managed data exchange – a seamless connection between broker management systems and insurance company systems. It allows brokers to do things like process insurance company policy transactions and retrieve insurance company account status information directly from within their broker systems.
IDE solutions should provide web services such as authentication, security, tracking, data formatting and routing, central connection points, and multiple destination sessions. Ideally, the IDE solution should be an open, rather than proprietary technology available for all broker management system vendors and other service providers sharing information and data in the insurance vertical. One example of an open, IDE technology solution is “WARP”, which was developed by Applied Systems and is utilized to power the IVANS network “Transformation Station” service.
What are the benefits of an IDE to brokers? The bottom-line is that brokers can save time and money through utilization of an IDE, while this technology can also provide improved customer service.
For instance, brokers will no longer need to remember multiple company passwords and have to learn to navigate through various companies’ websites. All of that work is taken care of behind the scenes. And, the broker is immediately presented with where he wants to be within the company’s website or with only with the information that he requires. Through utilizing an IDE, phoning companies and paging through websites can become a nuisance of the past. Brokers would be able to focus their attention on increased customer service, sales and retention.
What are the benefits to companies? As with the brokers, IDE technology provides insurers with cost savings through improved customer service and increased utilization of their web services. Companies could reduce costs associated with telephone inquiries and see increased utilization of valuable web development that they have already completed. An IDE should be designed in such a way as to be flexible for companies, thus allowing them to implement functions in the order that bests suits their IT strategy.
IDE technology should be based on XML standards and utilize secure internet communication channels. For the broker’s benefit, it should be flexible in supporting multiple company strategies including providing access to websites or directly to back-end processing. Most importantly, the IDE technology should offer “quick time to market” with functions that are already available and relatively easy to implement for both companies and vendors.