A 'Progressive' Approach to Selling on Multiple Platforms

Recent technology advances help both direct shoppers and the independent agency channel.

Progressive Insurance, which offers coverage both through its direct channel and via independent agencies, is now leveraging its technology investments in order to maximize its buyer experience—regardless of platform.

“We are having success in tools that cross over,” says Matt Lehman, mobile business leader for Progressive. “As we build out certain capabilities, clearly we are looking for those to be channel agnostic. When you look at the servicing and claims’ capabilities that are built into both our apps as well as our mobile Web—things like severe-weather text alerts or the ability to view policy coverages—we want those to be available to all customers regardless of how they choose to work with us.”

Progressive isn’t afraid to build certain capabilities strictly for one of their channels, but Lehman believes it all comes down to ways for customers to use mobile technology to make the insurance process easier.

“If a customer chooses to work with one of our 35,000 independent agents, that’s great and we want to put tools like the new FAO (ForAgentsOnly) effort into agents’ hands so they can be mobile,” says Lehman. “On the other hand, if a customer wants to work directly with us and use the device in their hands, we want to offer tools that will make that easy as well. We certainly look for crossover opportunities and in certain cases we may release something for the direct channel, which ultimately will cut over to the agency channel as well.”

As Progressive goes through the process of developing these tools, one thing that is consistent between both channels, according to Lehman, is communicating with the respective audiences along the way. 

“When we are building a direct experience, we are going to listen to what our existing customers or prospects are telling us and think about ways to optimize that experience,” he says.

It’s the same with agency tools.

“A lot of these applications were vetted with our agency technology council over the last year, so we understand from a mobilestandpoint what they are looking for. Are [agents] more apt to sit across the table from a client or prospective client with a tablet or a smaller device? We heard they were going to use tablets so that’s why we went out and built this [FAO] capability on iPads today and it’s coming to Android tablets in the not too distant future.”

The goal for Progressive is to enable agents to bring new clients onboard so they can quote and bind policies in a similar manner to what they might do at a desktop.

“They can certainly provide a rate, go through the buy process, provide the basic servicing capabilities, and run reports so [the agents] can look at the makeup of their Progressive customer base,” says Lehman.

Operating Systems

Many companies are gambling on one mobile operating system taking over the market, but Lehman points out the market is still too fractured with key players developing their own systems.

“As far as agents and what the mobile FAO will cover, certainly iPad has the lion’s share of tablet usage today,” says Lehman. “We are seeing Android make some inroads with the Kindle Fire, for example, the Motorola Zoom, and the Galaxy Note tablets. By offering similar functionality, those operating systems will cover the vast majority of the tablet market.”

The handheld market is more evenly split, according to Lehman.

“We see pretty broad coverage on both iPhone and Android,” he says. “Our goal there when we think about the consumer is to be present from the app space with iPhone and Android apps. We have a robust mobile Web offering as well and that is device agnostic, so if you have a BlackBerry or Windows phone you can access the mobile capabilities.”

Image Capture

Progressive recently went outside its own research and development area to purchase software from technology vendor Mitek to help boost the direct line by allowing customers to submit a photo of their driver’s license and the VIN for a particular car and get a rate back through their smartphone.

“We still need all those data pieces about [a customer] in order to provide an accurate rate,” says Lehman. “We also are looking at ways to make that input process easier. When you look at how mobile technology is evolving, one of the big ways is around the use of the camera—making deposits to your bank, scanning a QR code—so we wanted to expand on that.”

The image capture allows a customer or potential customer to take a picture of their driver’s license for prefill and another picture of their insurance card to get the VIN or scan the VIN off the car itself.

When you look back at Progressive’s history of using technology and trying to be first to the market to make things easier for customers and independent agents, Lehman points out Progressive gets approached by lots of companies with possible software solutions.

“In this case, this was a situation where we were looking at ways to use mobile technology in the quote process,” he says. “We saw what Mitek was doing with remote check deposit and we were able to strike a really good partnership between us. We bring a lot around the user experience with a powerful rating engine in the background.”

Progressive seeks to deliver an accurate, viable rate, not a ballpark rate based on what Lehman calls “a ton of assumptions that likely will change. We want to get you through the process quickly and easily and we want to give you a rate you can purchase right there on the phone if it is good for you.”

Progressive is happy with how the technology and the back end systems are working together and the carrier looks forward to growing this solution.

“It’s all about speeding up the process of getting a rate and making it easier,” says Lehman. “Will we expand that over time? Today we are in the introductory period. We are looking to expand it in more states and we are hearing good results from those that have used it, but right now we are focused on making it as good as possible for those early adopters.”

Exciting Times

The insurance industry is in a period of unparalleled technology adoption and innovation, according to Lehman.

“Given our lineage of trying to be at the forefront of using technology to make insurance easier, it’s a really exciting time for consumers as well as independent agents who can embrace this technology,” he says. “It allows you to be more productive and efficient all the time.”

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