Web-based communication vehicles as a key source of insurance CI

By Karen Rothwell

Outward Insights

It is no secret the Internet is an incredible source of information. Today blogs, discussion forums and other Web-based communication applications create new opportunities for gathering and analyzing new intelligence. Is your firm leveraging the sources and tools available today?

Blogs (short for Web log) are online written entries that can be very personal, similar to a diary or more formal as in the case of a corporate blog used for communicating and facilitating both internal and external issues. The insurance world has quite a few of its own blogs. Some are written by individuals with a perspective to share on our industry. Others represent insurance firms or industry organizations that use their blog as a forum for networking and sharing insights on industry issues.

For those not in the habit of perusing blogs or discussion sites, take a look at the forums tab directly on this site (http://www.producersWeb/forums.com) to get a sense of how they are structured. Another insurance specific site with broad application worth perusing is the Insurance Forum (http://www.InsuranceForum1.com). It has discussion forums on a variety of topics including insurance claims, quotes, brokers, etc.

If you don't know where to begin or if you're just curious about what popular insurance sites your peers are reviewing, check out del.icio.us, a bookmark sharing site, which lets you save all your bookmarked sites, share them with other people and see what others in the industry are bookmarking (http://delicious.com).

The benefits for insurance professionals and producers to scan these new forms of Web-based communication vehicles are several:
  • Insights can be gained into customer views of insurance products, both likes and dislikes as well as unmet needs. The information, shared on a consumer blog, for instance, can reveal opinions, feelings and possible reasons and explanations behind the actions of consumers. This type of intelligence can be just as important as hard-core statistics from a survey since it can provide insight into the underlying assumptions of consumers that can explain their behavior today, and more important, how they may act and respond to new offerings in the future.

  • Scanning blogs and forums can help to spot insurance industry trends, as well as see what activities competitors and their employees are up to that might pose an opportunity or threat to your business. Rumors contained in blogs, such as potential new insurance policies or partnerships that would not ordinarily be shared in more traditional secondary sources, can be investigated and monitored further.

  • The information shared via the Web is typically current. In fact, you can watch a real-time conversation unfold before your eyes on the Internet. And what's more, you can join in on a conversation to dig deeper and learn more about a topic.

  • The source participating in blogs and forums are freely volunteering their opinions. The information shared in such venues is typically honest and raw, the type not usually uncovered in traditional surveys or phone interviews.
Insurance professionals who do not peruse these media for data on their own firms as well as their competition are at a huge disadvantage, particularly in this soft market. Listening to what insureds, peers and others have to say about you, your competition and other issues can improve your competitive knowledge and awareness. These insights can help your producers or sales team improve your insurance product offering. In addition, similar insights into your competition put salespeople in better positions to sell against or displace a competitor beyond just price.

There are some downsides to relying solely on information found on the Internet. The most obvious negative is that the quality and reliability of the information shared by others is an unknown. Be mindful of this and validate the information as well as the source whenever possible.

The proliferation of communication vehicles exploding on the Web shows no signs of slowing down. Don't miss out on some intelligence gems available on the Internet that can help you outsmart your competition today.

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