February 16, 2011

Amica (Lincoln, R.I.) has released a mobile app across three platforms: Apple's iOS, Google's Android and Research in Motion's BlackBerry. In doing so, the carrier brought together representatives from several departments to form a team to decide on best practices for functionality, interface and support so that on-the-go customers received the best possible experience.

"One of the charges of our team has been to think about designing the app from a customer perspective," says Jill Rasmussen, assistant director of web development and marketing. "Customers don't know how Amica is organized internally, nor should they. We want to anticipate and address their needs and questions when contacting us through the mobile app channel through our design."

The P&C carrier decided that claims would be the focus of the app, because that's when customers need service most urgently, adds Lisa St. Onge, AVP of claims.

"We wanted our customers to have the ability to communicate with us when and how they wanted," St. Onge says. "We thought it was important to have a first notice of loss capability. We also included features to allow people to track a claim, create a homeowners inventory, access our repair vendors and services, such as roadside assistance, and make it easy to reach us."

To get those capabilities in front of customers, Amica leveraged existing infrastructure in its claim system that supported web-based claim reporting.

"Our main goal was to inject the claim directly into our existing claims system," says Sue Haney, AVP of CIS for Amica. "We wanted to only require a minimal amount of re-keying in case we couldn't get the claim directly from the phone into the system. The integrations were there because of Amica.com and the rich functionality we have on our website. It's just coming in from a different source."

Haney credits the team approach with being able to ensure a smooth development and release process that met all divisions' expectations for functionality.

"We have established a cross-divisional team, and in IT we have our testing group, our integration competency center group, our claims and underwriting section who provide code and expertise who bring this all together," she says.

Challenges the team faced included testing and training front-line customer service representatives on the app so that they could answer questions if people called in, Haney adds.

"We are definitely faced with a challenge of not being able to test with every combination of device and firmware," she continues. " We are definitely faced with a challenge of not being able to test with every combination of device and firmware."

But in the end, the success of the initiative is measured by how well it meets customer expectations, says Steve Gendreau, AVP and director of web development for the carrier.

"It's been an interesting experience seeing how to implement a mobile strategy — there's support features, there's testing," he says. "We're trying to take a holistic view from a customer standpoint. As they come to us looking for new things we'll respond to that."

Editor's Note: Amica's Sue Haney, Steve Gendreau and Jill Rasmussen will present at Insurance & Technology's March 16 virtual event, Customer Experience: Improving Distribution, Service and Insight to Drive Growth and Profitability. Please join us to hear about how you can leverage emerging technologies such as mobile to get closer to customers, prospects and distributors.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nathan Golia is senior editor of Insurance & Technology. He joined the publication in 2010 as associate editor and covers all aspects of the nexus between insurance and information technology, including mobility, ...