In my last post, I summarized the results of our recent analysis of insurance carrier mobile offerings in the personal lines auto market. To recap the main points:

  • The vast majority of Tier 1 carriers in our analysis support some interaction on a range of mobile platforms including mobile browser and platform-specific apps.
  • Less than half of the Tier 2/3 carriers had the same level of platform support.
  • This gap between Tier 1 and Tier 2/3 results from a number of factors including distribution and servicing strategy, technology capabilities, and the bandwidth to take on mobile projects.
As we looked deeper into the features offered by those carriers which do support mobile interaction we found that there is, not surprisingly, a great deal of commonality in the areas that are supported, though the extent of that functionality does vary. I found it useful to divide functionality into two broad buckets:
  • Location-specific features which are distinctly oriented to in-vehicle use (of course, not while a
  • ctually driving). These features leverage the ey attributes of a smartphone including form factor/portability, Internet connectivity, and location awareness.
  • Convenience features which are oriented to quick checks while on the go, though not necessarily from a vehicle.

As an example of a location-specific feature, the first and most obvious is accident support. In fact, many of the earliest apps released by personal auto carriers focused solely on this area. Of the Tier 1 carriers that have mobile offerings, all of them have some level of accident support. However, looking a little deeper, the extent of that support varies significantly.

The most sophisticated carriers enable a policy holder to quickly capture the information required for a first notification of loss (FNOL) directly on their phone. The best apps assist in this process by prepopulating vehicle, driver, and coverage information from the policy administration system of record and by assisting the driver in identifying his/her location. The leaders also enable loading of accident scene photos as supporting documentation. Finally, the mature apps allow the user to submit the claim and receive immediate confirmation that it was received. Less sophisticated apps lack the pre-population features or generate a basic email FNOL. The least sophisticated are basically accident scene checklists with no real integration to the carrier, instead opting to pop-up the phone number for the carrier’s claims desk.

In order to be best-in-class in this one area, there really is a lot going on behind the scenes. While some of the gee-whiz app features like location identification are nice to have, they are trivial from a development effort perspective. The real capabilities result from deep integration with core systems. Given the inherent challenges of text and data entry with a smartphone, it’s clear that an app which allows the user to quickly fill out the majority of an FNOL by recognizing the user and presenting the majority of relevant information for selection rather than re-keying will have a much higher likelihood of being used. In fact, when I test drove the best available app, I really felt as if it was an improvement over making a call to a claims desk. Conversely, I found myself asking “why bother?” with the apps from the middle of the pack and below. By the time I had done the busy-work only to hit “email to carrier” at the end, I would have been much happier to just call in the first place.

Which brings us back to one of the fundamental issues raised in last month’s blog. Apps for apps’ sake is not a long-term strategy. The majority of transactions that a policy holder would want to conduct over his or her smartphone require significant levels of integration to provide support for bill payment, proof of insurance, and of course claims as mentioned above. It’s hard to hide gaps in those capabilities from increasingly sophisticated users. And, as the major carriers continue to enhance and expand their mobile offerings, carriers without significant integration capabilities will be left even further behind.

Next month, I’ll finish off the personal lines auto mobility series with a detailed look at the complete catalogue of mobile features offered by Tier 1 carriers.