While the idea of buying CDs, jeans, flowers, books and even cars online has become more mainstream, the idea of buying insurance online has yet to reach great heights, although it is helping users.
An estimated $11 billion or approximately 9 percent of the annual auto insurance market will be researched or purchased online by 2003, according to Forrester Research, Cambridge, Mass. The Internet may be more conducive to buying personal insurance, such as auto, home and life, rather than commercial insurance for a waste company with sizeable and varied exposures. However, the web is changing the commercial insurance buying experience.
For example, the Internet is proving successful in educating and informing customers about the insurance buying process. Various insurance websites provide quotes and compare prices from different companies. One site, ebix.com, is an insurance portal that allows insurance buyers and professionals such as agents and brokers to collect multiple quotes for their clients.
While a waste company's broker evaluates insurance price options, it's a good idea for the company to collect information itself. Ebix.com offers articles about specific insurance coverages, claims management, potential lawsuits, loss control and insurance-term glossaries.
InsWeb.com is another helpful website for buying insurance. Although the site primarily is aimed at the consumer, it provides tools to educate consumers on insurance policies and terms. Also, insurance buyers can receive and compare quotes, and InsWeb.com has helpful articles and glossaries, too.
The Internet also is changing the insurance industry by enabling customers to easily collect and access data. For example, customers now can streamline the application process. Also, companies can use these sites to determine exposures, coverage and liability limits. Such information gives clients insight into where insurance losses occur and assists with developing effective risk management programs to manage potential future losses.
Likewise, insurance companies' own websites are valuable resources for collecting risk management tips to control losses and insurance expenses. Risk control ideas, claims scenarios, insurance policy forms for agents and brokers, and helpful articles are featured on many insurance companies' sites.
“The Internet is proving successful in educating and informing customers about the insurance buying process. Various insurance websites provide quotes and compare prices from different companies.”
Safety program information also can be found on sites such as SafetyOnline.com. This portal focuses on safety programs and training. It offers access to vendors and consultants, and provides updates on regulatory standards from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Washington, D.C. One of SafetyOnline.com's sister websites, PollutionOnline.com, offers similar information.
Thanks to the Internet, if a company incurs a loss, it is being handled differently than in the past. For example, a new claims management service called Cybersettle.com offers a computer-assisted method for settling insurance claims. Cybersettle works with insurance companies and plaintiff's attorneys through an electronic mediation process to reach an agreeable settlement. The site's goal is to reduce settlement process time and expense. Currently, more than 475 insurance companies are using this online service.
When it comes to buying complex commercial coverages, the Internet might not be the definitive point of purchase, but it is certainly playing a substantial role in the process.