Web 2.0 for Insurance Questions and Answers


I wanted to follow-up the IsoTech08 conference and the talk I delivered there on Web 2.0 and Insurance with answers to a few questions that came from the audience.

The full presentation slides are posted on slideshare:

View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: agent_collaboration agent_engagement)

Questions and Answers:

Q: the new trends in the innovative use of the web seem to give direct insurers an advantage over indirect ones, as they focus a much larger portion of their resources in direct to consumer services and marketing. How can traditional agent centric companies compete?

A: Do you remember the end of real estate agents? When Your Home Direct launched with a website and a 2% commission structure everyone mourned agent based companies. It appeared that agents do provide value and the 2% became 3%, then 4% and now chapter 11. Remax is still going strong…

Agents provide a personal relationship and value that is appreciated by many customers. Companies can empower these agents with the latest tools and technologies that will allow them to provide their customers with the best user experience and convenience that will provide the best of both worlds.

The direct providers like Geico, provide tools but no context or tailoring to the client specific needs. Agents should be provided with a white label set of tools (tools that the Insurer provides but can be customized with the branding, contacts and products that a specific agent provides). When providing a quote, it is not a printed document but a link to a personalized client site with all the details of the quote listed and the ability for the client to make changes and see options. Agents can communicate through messages or live chat and provide all the options and discounts.

The Customer gets a completely customized experience guided by a trusted agent.

Insurers that will empower their agents with tools like these will not have a problem to compete successfully.

Q: It was mentioned that one of the largest hurdles in the successful implementation of social and collaboration tools inside the enterprise is lack of critical mass of users. How can we ensure that we reach the critical mass and what will drive adoption?

A: It is true that for any community to be lively and for any communication tool to be effective it needs to reach a sufficient number of people. There are few ways to help that happen:

  • Cultivate the core user group. The ratio is usually 1:9. For every one contributor you have 10 readers and commenters. The contributors form the heart of the community and need to be encouraged and rewarded
  • Put collaboration tasks within the line of business. Collaboration and social tools are often considered “above the line” or things you do above and beyond your regular work. If an organization can find ways to put the use of these tools in the regular course of doing business, their usage will become just part of doing your job. Examples can include posting files and not emailing them, soliciting feedback through a forum, not in an email etc.
  • Make it the social norm. if key activities happen there, and key executive post and conduct business in the internal social network, it will become the place to be. People will start asking each other if they saw a specific thread or comments and will drive up adoption.

Q: Can you provide an example where Mashups provide a solution that can not be addressed using other existing Portal, BI ,EAI and Dashboard tools?

A: As with any new technology, people are justifiably concerned that the hype is exaggerated and that it is just a fancy term for well implemented dashboards. The new class of tools called Mashup engines try to solve some of the fundamental problems of integrating data from multiple sources and providing it in a visual interface without the need to go though the extensive and expensive effort of actually integrating the applications and their data. By leveraging web services standards, each source of data or data driven service can be assembled quickly and provide unique insights and different way to look at data that was very difficult until now. Here are a few scenarios:

  • Dynamic view of the customer. We often talk about a 360 view of the customer with all their claims, policies, history, and in multiple lines of business. A customer mashup can take a customer record as a baseline and pull together a combination of structured and unstructured data with visual rendering. For example, if the client is company X, the company view can include:
    • Company information and price stock
    • Map of company locations
    • List of latest news from news services about the company
    • List of SEC filings
    • Existing policies with their value and renewal dates
    • List of open and recent claims
    • List of recent service calls

    The data comes from multiple sources and can quickly change but the dynamic nature of the mashup, allows sources to be added or removed quickly and for different data to load based on retrieved parameters

Image taken from: http://www.andybudd.com/presentations/dcontruct05/images/zen2.jpg on April 21, 2008.

Building a Collaborative Enterprise: Twitter (Part 1)

This is the first in a series of blog posts focusing on ways to integrate specific collaborative technology platforms into your enterprise.

We’ll do this by examining cutting-edge companies who have embraced collaborative technology, and provide some suggestions as to how these technologies might be applicable in different industries.

If you’re new to collaboration in the enterprise, we suggest you read this post by Edgewater’s Ori Fishler, reviewing McKinsey’s research on “enterprise 2.0” collaborative technologies.

What is Twitter?

Twitter is a public, free microblogging service. It allows users to publish short — 140 characters or less — updates to anyone who chooses to listen (the Twitter term is “follow”). Here’s a video to explain more succinctly (and humorously!) than I can:

Chances are, your company already has a public corporate blog presence (a recent study says over 55% of companies do). Your corporate blog is probably much like ours, providing insights, expertise, and guidance to your customers and potential customers. Blogs are generally written in an expository, formal style, providing rich and deep content, and an ability to converse through comments.

Contrast this with Twitter, where the 140 character limit profoundly restrains the amount of detailed dialog your can provide to (and have with) your followers. Companies like Southwest Airlines, Dell Computer, and Comcast have embraced this communication mechanism. The Wall Street Journal recently declared that Twitter is going mainstream. Why?

Why Twitter?: External Collaboration

While much of the focus around Twitter has been on enhancing interpersonal relationships, Twitter serves a unique niche for enterprises that early adopters can take advantage of. It is very difficult (or expensive) to get as close to your customers as Twitter allows through other means.

Areas such as customer relationship management, engagement, and marketing strategy are well-served by the opportunity provided through Twitter.

Brand Monitoring

Much like traditional media outlet monitoring, companies are advised to set up a strategy for watching Twitter for tweets about them.

Since Twitter is often a channel for stream-of-consciousness writing, mentions of companies are often interrelated with visceral experiences, both positive and negative. Delving into the subconscious is a savvy marketer’s dream come true!

A nascent industry has appeared with all sorts of tools to monitor companies’ mentions on Twitter, allowing them to be aware of what people are thinking. Smart companies such as Southwest and Zappos have taken this monitoring a step further, to an intervention approach.

“Today, whatever you say inside of a company will end up on a blog.” — Rusty Rueff

Much like blog/website watching services (such as Google Alerts), tweets regarding layoffs, client information, and other sensitive data must be carefully monitored so that information leaks can be identified before they lead to serious consequences (data or confidentiality breaches at worst, PR nightmares at best) for the company.

Customer Service

Twitter allows for a uniquely personal approach to customer service, providing customers with a way to bypass your standard support structure and (at least have the appearance of) talking to a real, live person. Unlike standard support or CRM systems, however, by default all Twitter conversations are public.

This openness allows a company that is willing to invest in well-trained and highly disciplined customer-focused service to shine in a way that was impossible before Twitter. Your concern for, and engagement on, customer issues will be visible for the whole world to see.

Many companies using Twitter for customer service make wise use of the Twitter direct messaging feature to bifurcate between directing responses containing personal information privately to the requester, while directing less sensitive responses as general replies for the public to see.


While the ability to drive a rich marketing campaign through Twitter is limited to 140 characters, it’s possible that, by building a robust following through the techniques previously mentioned, you can deliver a strong message to your company’s followers, who are also likely to be your most ardent supporters.

Zappos created great, low-cost buzz when they randomly selected 10 of their 1,000+ followers to receive free pairs of shoes – brilliant marketing strategy targeted at their most loyal fans. Dell Computer Corporation regularly distributes exclusive coupon offers to their followers.


While there aren’t a lot of good examples of deals being brokered via Twitter, a couple bigger companies are experimenting and have shown marked success.

An Irish insurance company, FBD Insurance, has begun using Twitter to provide auto insurance quotes and other product information to potential customers.

Dell Computer Corporation launched its @DellOutlet Twitter account in June 2007. By the time 1 year had passed, Dell could trace over $500,000 in sales to links clicked through its twitstream.

To be Continued…

In our next post on Twitter, we’ll cover enterprise options, other creative uses, and potential downsides.

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