March 12, 2014

Kelly Sheridan contributed reporting.

Insurers are staying the course in opening up mobile capabilities to their policyholders despite relatively low adoption rates. A survey of more than 2,000 consumers by FICO found that only 8% preferred to manage their policy through a mobile app or mobile web site, 7% preferred to find quotes that way, and 4% wanted policy-related alerts through a mobile channel.

But when it comes to the youngest customers -- who may have the longest lifetime value -- mobile adoption rate is greater than that of their older counterparts. For example, 16% of respondents age 18 to 24 felt an SMS from their insurer would be most convenient, which was nearly twice the rate of 40- to 54-year-olds.

"While not everyone has started using mobile devices to interact with their insurance providers, those who do report a significant increase in customer satisfaction," says Russ Schreiber, manager of FICO's insurance practice, in a statement. "For example, alerts that keep customers up-to-date on their claims are growing. Insurers that create this type of dialogue receive higher recommendation ratings, which often lead to improved sales."

FICO contends that mobile is underused by insurers, with only 9% of respondents saying they've ever used a smartphone to manage their policy and two-thirds saying they haven't intereacted with their insurers at all on the platform. But there are some insurers making big bets on mobile. Corporate Insight's recent Monitor awards found some insurers, like USAA, Geico and Esurance, were paying attention to the leading edge of mobile use trends and incorporating capability like voice-recognition into their apps to capitalize on the increase in use of mobile software like Apple's Siri personal assistant.

[A Q&A with Esurance's customer experience leader]

"It allows users to streamline the process, and since they're on the mobile device on the go, it makes sense to expedite navigation," says Lauren Roncevic, Corporate Insight analyst.

FICO recommends insurers take an innovative approach to mobile development, using analytics to identify use trends and offer value adds like location-based services and severe weather tips. That is echoed by others in the industry, including Aimee Lucas, VP and customer experience transformist at Temkin Group.

"More consumers will have smartphones and tablets, and these devices will have apps that enable them to do more things wherever they go," Lucas says. "To make these experiences work, companies will need to consider how mobile integrates into their product offerings and entire end-to-end experience."

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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, ...