July 05, 2011

Esurance launched its RepairView program in 2007, allowing customers who use the San Francisco-based insurer's preferred auto repair shops to see pictures of their cars while they're being repaired. Joe Laurentino, VP of material damage for Esurance ($209 million in Q1 2011 premium), recently spoke to I&T about how the program has evolved from its browser-only beginnings into a multichannel service.

[Ed note: This interview was conducted before Allstate agreed to acquire Esurance for $1 billion. The deal is expected to be finalized in the fall.]

RepairView has been around for almost five years. What was the driver behind the service's initial introduction?

Laurentino: The general public had never been very trusting of the insurance industry, and that stemmed from the fact that there wasn't very much transparency. And there's also a perception that the repair industry is not as trustworthy as some of the other services we buy in the marketplace today. Transparency leads to credibility. By including the customer in the process we began to build that credibility.

You recently brought the program to Facebook and mobile devices. How has that affected its use?

Laurentino: Our Facebook integration allows customers to share photos of ongoing repairs with their entire networks, and it has skyrocketed the use of RepairView. We track views per claim and IP addresses -- before, we averaged about three IPs and eight to nine views per repair; since the program launched on Facebook, the amount of IP addresses went to 20 and views per claim to 60-plus.

How does the extra exposure benefit Esurance?

Laurentino: The claims experience is really something we see as a big point of differentiating for us. In car insurance, policyholders really only interact with the carrier when they have a claim. Customers wanted to hear, "How are you going to make the claim experience positive for us?"

How do you track the program's impact on service?

Laurentino: We used to measure customer service at the conclusion of a claim, but RepairView lets us actively react to the issues within a claim because we can survey people through the life of the claim. Very early on, we had sub-satisfactory reactions -- we worked on narrowing that gap and taking action during the course of the claim. Now our quality team has a view into the repairs, and we can keep constant communication with our customers

How have the repair shops adjusted to having cameras in their workplaces? Was it difficult to get them to sign on for the idea?

Laurentino: In the beginning, it really was difficult. Any time you take a business that operates as it has for many years, change is very difficult. But as we began to force this into the system, the benefits to the repairer were amazing.

The body shops began to see that they were not being interrupted with phone calls from customers. Instead, customers were leaving messages in their inbox. So they were able to interact when their minds were right instead of having to immediately react to a phone call. And the shops don't see us as often, and they seem to be more receptive to letting us monitor from a distance than someone walking through their doors suddenly.

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, ...