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Progressive's Mobile Document Capture Initiative Enables Quoting from a Smartphone

The auto carrier worked with Mitek Systems to create a capability in its iPhone app through which prospective policyholders can submit information by taking pictures of necessary documents.

Related: Progressive's Matt Lehman Talks about VIN Capture

Progressive has introduced new capabilities that allow consumers to receive binding insurance quotes on their smartphones. The Mayfield Village, Ohio-based insurer went live today with a new function in its consumer portal iPhone app that allows users to upload mobile phone pictures of their driver’s licenses, current insurance cards and/or vehicle VINs to generate binding insurance quotes.

The capability was developed in partnership with San Diego-based Mitek Systems, which has worked with other financial services companies on mobile image capture initiatives such as JP Morgan Chase's mobile check deposit offering. Once consumers receive their quotes, they can complete the transaction via Progressive’s online sales tool.

"We started working with Mitek because they were a recognized leader in the mobile check deposit area," says Matt Lehman, Progressive's mobile leader. "They had the back-end technology, and we've thought about how we can apply it in the insurance space and help our customers."

Progressive had independently developed VIN capture technology before working with Mitek, Lehman says, rolling that out in the mobile app under the Compare Cost of Insurance header last summer.

"That was received well by consumers, and now we're pairing that with the image capture capability to broaden the overall experience and make the process of getting a quote super easy," he says. "We think it will help revolutionize the industry because it's using a tool that's available in many of our prospects' hands."

Mitek is offering several different platforms for mobile capture that enable business applications to insurers. Progressive is using the Mobile Phone Quoting offering, which extracts relevant data from images of drivers' licenses, VIN numbers and insurance cards. Also available are Mobile Photo Payment, through which consumers can set up electronic payment by taking a photo of a blank check; Mobile Photo Claims, which allows policyholders filing a claim to upload images of other people's insurance cards, drivers licenses and license plates; and Mobile Photo Document Capture & Send, which allows users to take a photo of any document and send it as a high-quality PDF to any e-mail address or fax number.

Mitek VP of business development Mike Nelson says that the company crowdsourced many of these ideas after having conversations with insurers at trade shows.

"The insurance industry came to those events and inquired about how they can leverage mobile imaging in their business," he said. "It's all driven by that."

Enabling the growth in mobile document capture is the continuing improvement of mobile technology, he adds.

"Moving from 3G to 4G is going to reduce upload times, and of course the cameras are much better," Nelson says.

Forrester analyst Ellen Carney also expects insurers to find many other relevant uses for mobile document capture besides quoting. An industry so focused on paper can only benefit from this, she asserts.

"I think the applications have yet to be explored fully," Carney says. "You're going to see a lot of push back to the carrier from customers with new ideas. There's a lot of interesting ways to keep customers stickier."

[Read more tips on using technology to improve the insurance customer experience from Forrester's Ellen Carney and others.]

Carney suggests that the volume of documentation needed after a large catastrophe event could be captured via mobile, or that an image of an inspection sticker could be incorporated into a reminder service.

"The insurer could send you a notification about your inspection being up 30 days, 20 days, 10 days from now," she says. "It's those value-added services that make people connect with a carrier more often."

Progressive plans to look into other applications for mobile document capture after measuring the efficacy and take-up of the quoting capability, which Lehman sees as having broad appeal as a first move into this area.

"When we see opportunities to bring a unique capability to our customers or prospects, we look for broad applicability," he says. "I believe over time as consumers accept it we'll see other applications, but we want to give the best possible experience here first."

Users in 15 states will be able to take advantage of the capability immediately. New states will be added over the course of the next few weeks as Progressive fine-tunes the app so it can read more license

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, distribution, core systems, customer interaction, and risk ... View Full Bio

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