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Implementing a Tablet Sales Tool for Advisor Salesforces : an Implementation Guide from The Digital Insurer

In this article we address the main implementation issues that you can expect as you look to implement a tablet sales tool. The article is developed with a life insurance sales force in mind but at the end we consider how the framework could be “tweaked” for a non-life agency sales force. We hope it is useful to insurance professionals who are actively looking to implement a tablet sales tool.

Setting the Scene : 6-9 months to deliver a successful pilot

The aim of this article is to focus on implementation issues and to articulate a practical implementation plan that would allow a committed insurance company to deploy the first version of a tablet sales tool to their advisors within 6-9 months. This a realistic objective for any life insurer.

Recommended reading before your continue :

– For an overview of the Digital Tablet advisor : How Tablets can increase sales effectiveness

– To put the Digital Tablet into a wider strategic concept then read the article on the Digital Advisor Business Model.

Assuming you are ready let’s dive straight into the factors you should consider to successfully implement a tablet.

Are you really ready to start – what are the pre-conditions for success?

Before you start make sure you have set up a project for success:
  • “C” level support including project sponsorship from the head of distribution. For regional multi-nationals support from the regional office is also important
  • Budget approval backed up with a solid business case – total costs (software development, consultants and implementation fees) for a pilot will be in the range of US$150,000 t0 US$300,000
  • A pilot mentality – with room for evolution
  • Small project team – empowered to develop your tablet toolkit
  • Understand your objective. A very clear objective of producing a tool that advisors want to use because it helps them to sell more is recommended as the primary business benefit. This then provides a clear metric for decision-making and measuring actual impact
  • Who is leading the project ? Do they have passion, commitment and time to succeed? Can they operate and co-ordinate across all functional areas? Would it be better to have an external consultant to support tablet development?
  • Have preliminary discussion with your IT infrastructure managers. Understand the security constraints and whether vendor hosting is supported or internal deployment is required. Typically internal deployment increases both project costs and time to deploy and if possible seek approval for external deployment of the pilot is recommended with option to take in-house at a later date once the pilot is proven

Developing Requirements – Taming the scope

Tablet developments are exciting and there are lots of possible features and functionality that can be included. However, the first goal of your pilot is to gain acceptance of the tablet and prove it can improve sales effectiveness. The following approach has been shown to work by a number of insurers in different markets:
  • Release functionality in pre-planned waves. The most popular approach is to release quotes first followed by digital proposal and then needs analysis (or more likely calculator tools)
  • Focus on only the 2-3 most popular products in the first release
  • Use a web enabled quotation engine (if you have one already then you can integrate – otherwise you will need to ask the vendor to develop and deploy)
  • Build for the future. This mean building a tool that only works if the tablet device is connected to the internet. All data then resides on remote servers (which increases security as well as makes upgrades easier)
  • Delay integration to back office – productivity gains can be realised in later phases once the new platform is stable and accepted

The Importance of Design

We covered this in an earlier article. But it is worth repeating:

The first version of your DAT should focus exclusively on advisor acceptance – and this means that the focus should be on making it easier and more effective to sell by using a tablet compared to existing sales methods.

Simplicity is really hard work

And because selling is psychological the DAT needs to have usability, or “WOW” factor, with both the advisors and the end customers. Some key usability factors that should be included are:

  • Word class interface design (pay for a specialist in tablet design and iterate the design until it meets requirements)
  • Design for the finger and thumb not the mouse
  • Interactive graphical components for illustrations
  • Time saving items such as photo capture of identification and other documents
  • Customisation options for illustration outputs and proposal inputs – allow the advisor to personalise for their clients
  • Include a well designed resource centre to house documents and sales presentations. There are lots of easy wins to innovate the presentation of materials to customers
  • Automation of transfer of quote information to the proposal
  • Allow for advisors to choose how they want to use the tablet tools – avoid a rigid process that becomes a straight jacket that advisors do not accept

When the usability factors have been identified it is important to communicate with advisors and get them excited and engaged. If your DAT development is seen as just another piece of technology with low engagement of end users then do not be surprised if the initiative fails.

“Average” is not acceptable for a tablet based sales tool. Usability is all about making simplicity from complexity. This is always a challenge for insurance sales which are inherently complex. However, significant benefits, in terms of adoption and improved sales. accrue to those insurers that take the initiative and put in the hard work to make their tablet design advisor and customer friendly.

Choosing the Right Platform

Not surprisingly there is considerable discussion on the platform to deploy tablet developments on.

The first point to note is that as these are advisor devices the insurers can, and should, set standards for device supported. It makes sense to start with a single device and then support other platforms if there is a real need later on. The current trend seems to be towards iPads in more developed market and Samsung tablets in emerging markers. However, the picture is fluid and Microsoft with their release of Windows 8 and “laptop grade” tablets are going to make a strong pitch to CIOs.

Similarly there is a trend to incorporating more and more development using HTML5 which make cross platform deployment faster and cheaper. However, for now at least, some customisation to the specific operating system (Android, IOS etc.) is required to ensure a great user experience.

A good architectural design will put as many of the business rules on the “server side” which will minimise the number of app upgrades required by the sales force. In addition, long term maintainability of the quote engine (if part of the tablet development) will be significantly enhanced if the vendor is able to offer a configuration tool for existing and new products. Poorly designed quotation engines are a significant obstacle to development for many life insurers – and tablet s could provide both the opportunity and excuse to replace outdated quotation engines.

Insurers also need to determine how the hardware is deployed. Options include: Advisor uses own tablet, company loans to advisor or company provides a subsidy for the advisor. Where the company is providing financial support then quicker adoption can obviously be expected.

Selecting a Vendor using Partnership Principles

As tablet are relatively new and growth of applications in the insurance space is still limited there are very few vendors with a domain specific track record. This places the emphasis on insurers to conduct a solid vendor assessment process. Some of the key considerations are:

  • Credible mobile / tablet development experience. This should include great design/usability skills and experience in development of client server applications (particularly those for financial services industry as they are likely to have addressed issues around security and hosting)
  • Developers who support rapid application development . The approach of writing detailed user requirements and requesting user sign off maybe appropriate for incremental development of back end technology but is certainly not appropriate for consumer focused tablet applications
  • Look for a partnership based approach that incorporates flexibility in the roll out of functionality and ability to engage in teamwork. This involves both insurer and vendor adopting an approach to implementation that creates a common objective and allows differences to be resolved amicably. A “Them versus Us” approach by both vendors and insurers is still too common – and when it is present, it is often the framework upon which project failure is built
  • Use a simple vendor assessment scorecard that ensures price is not the only criteria for appointing a vendor. However, do avoid paying an excessive price simply because an existing vendor with insurance domain experience offers a tablet version as an additional product to their existing insurance applications
  • Insurance domain knowledge from the vendor becomes critical if you are looking to the vendor to develop the quotation engine. This will increase the costs, complexity and timelines but will be necessary if the insurer doesn’t already have a web enabled client server quotation application that can be integrated into the tablet tool

Fluid Development & Testing Process – Rapid application development

Prototyping should commence immediately with the vendor proposing key design layouts for key items of functionality. Specification and design work can be done hand-in-hand and typically involves mock-ups of design incorporated into a process flow and presented in a PowerPoint document for user review.

The vendor should be asked to produce a prototype or proof of concept early on so that any concerns about vendor skills and capabilities can be addressed before the costs and resource effort of building the first version are incurred. Most credible vendors should be able to produce working prototypes within a month and for a reasonable cost.

Rapid deployment allows organisations to prove the tablet works and to get feedback, buy in and support from the wider organisation. Key users should be engaged at appropriate points including a pilot group of advisors who are keen to use the technology in the field. The insurer should create a cross functional team but the core people involved should be familiar with project management and system development and be in a position to make quick decisions on behalf of the wider team.

Professional Roll-out – A “launch”

Tablet technology is of such strategic importance and of such impact to the sales force that professional launch is required – similar to the launch of a new product. This will involve development of a communication and training strategy to ensure the objectives and functionality are well understood.

As the device is new a few implementation bumps can be expected. These can be managed by ensuring support channels for the product exist (help desk and on-line support) as well as mechanisms to quickly review and respond to feedback. The user sign up and app download experience should be carefully thought through and tested – this will be the first “touch” for the new app and hence high profile.

As Promised : Tablet Tools for Non-Life insurers

This article has focused on tablet applications for life insurers. However, many if not most of the same principles apply for general insurers. A few considerations that  are different include:

  •  The products and advisory sales process are much simpler. Consequently even more emphasis can be placed on making the quotation process customer friendly
  • The tools are more likely to be consumer facing and hence multichannel deployment becomes more important – for example providing quotation and purchase processes on mobile, tablet and browser platforms
  • The renewable nature of non-life products provides opportunities for electronic renewal (and hence customer portals are even more important for non life insurers)
  • Motor insurance is a key driver so any actions to make the quotation quicker and more accurate will generate results. Postcode based look-up of address and easy capture of vehicle information are examples

In Summary: an Implementation Checklist

The table below provides a checklist to help ensure your tablet development the best chances for success.

Functional Area Business Requirement
  • C level support
  • Signed off budget and business case
  • Small project team
  • Clear objective (sales tool) and pilot mentality
  • IT infrastructure and security issues addressed in principle
  • Leader in place for execution
  • Consulting support
Reduce Functional Scope
  • Phase delivery – starting with quote
  • Few products at start
  • Build for online use only
  • Delay back office integration
Great Usability
  • Design for “finger” not “mouse”
  • Simplicity
  • Avoid “serial” thinking bounded by historical processes
  • Personalisation options
  • Graphics for quote and resource centre
Correct Platform
  • One platform for launch
  • iPad vs Android .Microsoft emerging?
  • How much in HTML5?
  • Hardware purchase strategy
Vendor as a Partner
  • Tablet / mobile domain
  • Provide a quote engine (if needed)
  • Comfortable with rapid application development approach
  • Price competitive
Fluid Development &Testing Process
  • Design led prototype
  • Rapid application development
  • Tightly managed testing process
Don’t forget the Launch !
  • Professional launch – like a new product
  • Communications & training strategy
  • Mechanisms for feedback
  • Prepare for bumps on the road in the initial launch period

 We hope this article proves useful to insurance professionals about to embark on tablet development. We wish you luck and do contact The Digital Insurer if you need support, have success stories to share, or recommendations for improving this article.

The Digital Insurer can help

If you need help on using digital thinking to transform your business please get in touch – we are here to help. Please also visit the  Q&A area as well as our pages on our Digital Insurance Services.

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Related articles and content that are relevant if you are interest in developing a Tablet sales tool:

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About The Digital Insurer

The Digital Insurer is a blog/article forum and accompanying email newsletter maintained for the benefit of insurance professionals interested in improving on existing business models, or creating new business models that take advantage of technology developments. More about The Digital Insurer

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