Moving off the back roads to the information super highway

Moving off the back roads to the information super highway

Pillsbury, Dennis H

In the insurance industry, the information interchange has taken place on country roads rather than a super highway. In fact, as one agent noted, it’s more like a road with gates at each end and “you better have a parking pass if you want to get in.”

That’s a far cry from the promised information super highway where information would flow freely and consumers would have access to a wide variety of products and services at competitive prices. But that’s not the only reality in the insurance world. (Or is that virtual reality?) There are a lot of people out there going ahead and doing their own thing and if other companies and agents don’t want to come along for the ride, they may very well be looking in from the sidelines.

“The only constant is change,” notes David Talbert, marketing manager for Realty Insurance Services, Inc., in Charlotte, North Carolina. “Right now,” Talbert continues, “most of the stuff on the Internet is more related to software than it is to insurance.” He adds, however, that that can be quite helpful. Information on the Internet can help solve software problems at no cost and that helps to reduce expenses. He goes on to point out that exchange of information between agents and subagents is happening through E-Mail on the Internet, the World Wide Web and other systems.

“The key to success is open systems,” Talbert notes, pointing out that the illusive SEMCI will only be achieved once companies move away from trying to lock agents into the company’s own system. Single entry makes sense for everyone, he says. “If you don’t have to re-key or re-format, it will cut expenses for both companies and agents.”

Agents get leads from Prodigy users

Meanwhile, on the marketing front, agents are starting to take matters into their own hands with the introduction of Insurance On Line. Available on the Prodigy network, Insurance On Line asks consumers for insurance information and then passes that information on to an agent in the area.

Robert Caldarella, president of Interactive Marketing Corp., Hamden, Connecticut, the company that brings us Insurance On Line (see box, next page), points out that the concept was developed in response to efforts by some companies to “cut us out of the deal.” By “us,” Caldarella means agents. He is one and continues to operate an agency in Connecticut.

Insurance On Line has only been around since April 1, but already is generating more than 1,000 leads a day. “It’s been an unbelievable response,” Caldarella points out. “People really are providing the information on line. They seem to be willing to be more honest with the computer. They answer questions about smoking on life apps and put in traffic violations and speeding tickets when filling out auto insurance information forms.”

Information super highway can be a friendly road

Edna Holliday, who signed up with Insurance On Line right away, says she’s “never seen anything like this. I’m extremely pleased. Response has been terrific.” In one day, her agency, Holliday Insurance Agency Inc. in Nederland, Texas, received about 25 leads through the system. They responded via E-Mail within 24 hours and already (as of early April) had received a “thank you” via E-Mail for the quick response. Quotes will be going out through Prodigy. “This is the wave of the future,” Holliday says. “We’re sticking with the information highway all the way.”

Ron Palmer, owner of Palmer & Associates in Glastonbury, Connecticut, comments that “it’s here now and we’ve got to learn to deal with it” in referring to the information highway. “Eventually, I expect to deal with my clients via E-Mail for everything.” Palmer also has signed on with Insurance On Line.

It seems that in most cases, the insurance industry still is traveling in the slow lane on the information super highway if it’s even made it off the entrance ramp. But “Generation X” is fully and completely conversant with that road and will be looking there first for the information and products they need. As I am constantly reminded, if I ever have a problem with my computer, just ask my 12-year-old. It’s the wave of the future and if you’re not “surfing the ‘net” yet, you’d better at least start waxing your board.

See you, or a virtually accurate approximation of you, next month.

Insurance On Line

Insurance On Line was formed as a lead generation service for independent agencies. It went live on Prodigy on April 1, 1995. It offers the more than two million users of Prodigy the ability to request quotes on auto, homeowners, business and life insurance. Questions related to each of those areas, such as current carrier, X-date and so on, are part of the system.

The average Prodigy user is 37 years of age and earns about $75,000 a year. Half of the users are managers or professionals.

Robert Caldarella, president of Interactive Marketing Corp., which provides Insurance On Line, notes that it was set up based on his belief that the future marketing road for many businesses will be the information super highway. Insurance On Line is the first interactive insurance system on any of the major on-line services.

The author

Dennis Pillsbury has more than 20 years experience in insurance journalism, both as an editor of the weekly publications of A. M. Best Co. and the Insurance Information Institute and as a freelance writer.

Copyright Rough Notes Co., Inc. May 1995

Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning Company. All rights Reserved