Agents Warm Up (Slowly) To Mobile Technology
Adding mobile technology to laptops and other electronic devices allows insurance agents to improve their efficiency significantly, agents and executives in the industry say.
“If Im in a brokers office and we had a complex case, we used to have to return to the office and get back to him later, or else ask the broker to come up to our office to work out the figures,” says Doug Mishkin, president, Algren Associates Inc., based in New York.
Now, with a laptop and a cell phone modem, the same agent can extract the needed information from his companys database right in the brokers office, he says.
“Mobile technology allows them to provide quotes on the spot rather than meeting with the broker, compiling information, going back to the office, going to different carriers for quotes, then e-mailing the information to the broker or going out to see him again,” says Mishkin.
“Using a laptop, a complex case might take an agent five minutes, including getting quotes from different carriers,” says Mishkin, who uses a Dell laptop.
Mishkin often uses a wireless modem to connect his laptop to the Internet when with a broker.
Also, he notes, “some brokers use a wireless modem to pull up insurance quotes from our Web site.”
However, not every agent shares his enthusiasm about mobile technology, he adds.
“I dont think too many of our agents are using it as much as they should be,” he says, noting that his agency has approximately 200 independent agents.
As for personal digital assistants, Mishkin finds their usefulness limited mostly to scheduling appointments.
“Theres not a lot of insurance-related software for PDAs,” Mishkin says.
He adds that he has been resisting tying his Palm Pilot to a cellular modem.
“Its enough to have people calling me on my cell phone all day,” he says. “I dont know if I want my e-mail attached to my hip.”
But he foresees being forced to do so eventually, as more brokers and agents use mobile devices.
Charles Burnham, CEO of Burnham Insurance Group, Battle Creek, Mich., also reports that many of his agencys producers find they can live without mobile technology, even though they travel extensively.
Still, a growing corps of his companys agents find they can do their jobs more effectively by connecting their company-supplied laptops with a wireless modem.