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How Aflac made mobile apps its policy

By Al Sacco, CIO
April 11, 2008 05:26 PM ET

CIO - When you're a Fortune 500 insurance company with 40 million customers across the globe it's absolutely critical that your field force has access to real-time business information whenever or wherever they may need it so they can serve customers and potential policy holders faster and more efficiently. Just ask Aflac CIO Gerald Shields.

That's why Aflac developed and deployed a handful of offerings that can access that information remotely via a variety of mobile devices including notebook computers, PDAs and smartphones like BlackBerrys and Palm Treos. And the company's had so much success with the initial offerings that it's already working on expanding the portfolio.

"Our overall goal is really to empower the field force, to make them more successful," Shields says. That's not only to help customers; he also sees these applications as part of a recruiting strategy.

"We have three priorities for our mobile apps," Shields adds. "We want to make our agents more effective, more efficient, and more attractive. And I don't mean give them a haircut and a shave. I mean we want to make our jobs the most attractive to [other] agents because we help them more than any other insurance company."

AflacAnywhere and Mobile.Aflac: Pushing Notifications and Data to Agents

AflacAnywhere is a subscription-based Web portal that lets agents sign up for alerts and notifications like fax submission and receipt status, payroll account changes, policy modifications, and pending business alerts that may require action on their part, according to Shields.

The Aflac Duck

Such alerts can be delivered to their notebook PCs or smartphones via e-mail, portal notification, automated voice alerts or SMS text messages. And agents can customize the alerts to streamline communications in the ways that best suit them. About 4,000 Aflac field agents currently use AflacAnywhere, which was first launched last year, Shields says. On average, Aflac agents use five or the dozen available notifications.

And in January, the company announced the launch of a smartphone-specific application that part of its Mobile.Aflac initiative. The application, which was developed in-house by the company's software research center in Atlanta, provides information on things like policy servicing questions, the status of claims payment, and information on customers' existing or past policies.

To gather specs for the applications Shields sent a number of his IT staffers out to the field to work with agents. The team also analyzed call center and agent support line reports to determine what issues were troubling them most often.

"We prioritized the issues to find what we could provide [agents with] on their BlackBerrys or mobile devices to keep them from having to make a call to get that information," Shields says.

Then they piloted the new app with a number of groups of agents throughout different geographical regions, and it didn't take long to see it was a success.

"The feedback was phenomenal," Shields says. "One associate told me 'I saved an account because of it,' Shields said.

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