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Auto insurance and apps to improve the customer experience

It's a tired way to start a modern article by referring to the speed with which the world has been revolutionized by the computer but, in this instance, it's highly appropriate. When the first green shoots emerged in the late 1960's and early 1970's, computerization was all about automating in-house processes like the accounting system. The software to replace labor was still a few years ago. But, once it arrived, two things happened. The employers cut their costs and improved their profits by terminating the employment of tens of thousands. Second, by removing many of the people who used to deal with customers, the businesses began a slow decline in the quality of the services they provided. Today, corporations hide behind call centers and e-mail systems, rarely providing real people we can talk through our problems with.

 
   

Instead of using the Internet and automated systems as a smokescreen to suggest a reasonable quality of service, the new technology should be used to improve the customer experience. At some point, the quality of this aspect of service will come back into focus as a way of distinguishing between faceless corporations. Take the world of insurance as an example of what can be done. If your vehicle is involved in an accident, what you want is a smooth system for handling your claim. This involves the minimum fuss in submitting the claim online, the identification of suitable bodyshops for performing the repairs, getting quotes with the least delay, and agreeing which bodyshop will actually do the repairs. All this administration needs to be fast because, if your vehicle is off the road, there are storage charges mounting up and rental charges for a substitute vehicle. Multiply this across all the policyholders and the cost to the insurers is higher than it needs to be. If this loss is controlled, premium rates can be stabilized if not reduced. It's good for all.

That's why it's important to support a new website and mobile app for Android and the iPhone that will improve the current situation. They allow you to upload photographs of the damage using your cell phone or hand-held device with a camera, and circulate those pictures to bodyshops approved by your insurer near to where you live. The repair shops keep the site updated on whether they have spare capacity and offer an estimate of the cost of repairs within 24 hours. Because the site works with insurers to limit the list of repairshops to those preapproved by the insurers, there's a minimum of delay in processing the claim and costs are kept to a minimum. At present, this is still at a beta stage with five insurance companies in a limited number of states. But, assuming the trial is a success, we could see this rolled out across the country. If it genuinely does reduce administrative delays and associated costs, we will see stable car insurance rates. It may not be the cheap car insurance we all want to see, but it's a good step in the right direction. It should also act as a wake-up call to the other slumbering giants on both sides of the fence. There are creative software people and insurance companies who would benefit the customer by getting together.

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