Regarding Web-based Tools For The Industry, The Future Is Now

To The Editor:

Re: “Web-based Business Tools Will Provide Competitive Advantages.”

Michael E. Sladek’s article in the May 6, 2002, issue of National Underwriter touched upon some valid reasons why insurance companies should create Web-based products to better serve their writing agents in the future, but he overlooked the fact that many of these tools already exist.

For the past few years, the health insurance industry and its outsourcing suppliers have been designing tools that benefit both brokers and consumers by providing a new facet of interactive, instantaneous service–at the convenience of the customer.

Web-based tools are available that enable consumers to check their claims status online–24 hours a day, seven days a week–instead of through a customer service call center. If health insurance customers have questions regarding doctors’ bills, they can enter the secure site to confirm which portion of the medical treatment was covered, or if the bill has been paid by the carrier–often saving the patients unnecessary calls to the physicians’ offices.

Through these Web sites, consumers can change their primary care physicians; request new identification cards; add new dependents to their coverage; and change their addresses. Customers react positively when they feel they can manage their health benefits on their own terms, at times that fit into their schedules.

Customer service should extend to brokers as well, as Mr. Sladek noted. It is important to point out that these Web-based aides, when developed properly, affect the broker through the customer. A happy customer returns to the broker for continued business.

Brokers are as valuable to a health insurance company as its members are. It is in the company’s best interest to make their jobs as easy as possible, and Web-based sales applications can do just that. Instead of making a phone call to a broker service center, they can access, with complete confidence and security, information pertinent to a sale, such as product and pricing information, forms and instant price quotes, through their PC or their laptop.

Because agents can more quickly access information, they can respond to clients’ questions, problems and concerns in a more timely fashion. These innovative applications not only help brokers obtain new clients, but also allow agents to take their customer service to a higher level.

Other sectors of the insurance trade should take a cue from what the health insurance industry and its outsourcers are doing to offer the best possible customer service. In a competitive marketplace, these tools set businesses apart.

I commend Mr. Sladek for his forward thinking. However, when it comes to Internet-based tools for the insurance industry, the future is now.

Ken Sidon

President

Antares Management Solutions

Beachwood, Ohio


Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, June 10, 2002. Copyright 2002 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.