|October 2, 2000|
Insurer Offers Wireless Web Access
Progressive uses wireless application protocol to offer services and information
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"We realize our customers want to contact us in a variety of ways," says Allen Bauer, Internet business leader at the Mayfield Heights, Ohio, insurer. "This initiative will allow our customers to get to us without having to go through call centers and other forms of human intervention, 24-by-7 from any location."
Customers with WAP-enabled cell-phones can point their browsers to Progressive's Web site to find a local agent, then automatically dial the number. Customers soon will be able to access price quotes, and Progressive is working on giving customers wireless access to their accounts so they can pay their bills from anywhere.
Jeff Kagan, an independent telecom analyst, says Progressive--which developed and built its own WAP technology--is on his list of most-successful rule breakers. "They did it on their own," he says. "Who knows your customers and how to remain competitive in your industry better than you?"
Other insurers aren't as quick to adapt wireless technology. "Allstate isn't using Wireless Application Protocol technology, but we'll continue to monitor consumer trends and see how other companies are using it," says a spokesperson for Allstate Insurance Co. "At the moment, we're not sure it's something our customers want."
But Kagan feels Progressive will start a trend in the industry. "People hate picking up the phone to call insurance companies because they dread starting what they know will be a long, dreadful procedure," he says. "Progressive is aiming to speed up the claims process for its customers."
State Farm Insurance Cos. is testing WAP technology in-house. The company plans to implement wireless systems to make its employees easily accessible to clients, so customers can access, send, and receive information available on its Web site from any location. The insurer also plans to offer customers access to content-based applications via its partnership with Yahoo.
"We're not as far ahead as Progressive, but we're working in the same vein," says Robert Reiner, State Farm's manager of enterprise Internet service. "Wireless technology is the way for people to have 24-by-7 access to data. We believe it will have a huge impact on our customers."
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