option over a wet signature. But where possible we would highly recommend using online applications, because, again this is what people are used to doing online. They’re used to applying for their car insurance online. They’re used to applying for a mortgage online, for credit cards, etc.
Speaking of credit cards, offer the option of credit card payment and EFT payment for premiums. It just makes life a lot easier – not only for the client, but also for you. It reduces the amount of error, the amount of data entry error and it gets the money into the door that much quicker.
We also recommend sharing one engine for all outlets. If you’re going to spend the time and money developing a new rating engine or a new business process, if you’re using a loosely-coupled architecture you can share that one engine with the Web, with your IVR on the phone, with your OCR and your document management system, with your imaging system – it’s really more of a smart IT decision.
Not to get too technical, but just some suggested development methodologies for the technologist out there: I always recommend you work in a white box environment vs. a black box environment. The difference being, in a white box environment your technology is open for everyone within the organization to work with. So, getting back to the empowerment statement I made earlier, giving them that ability to go in and change the content on the Website – not having to rely on your development team to change content.
In a white box environment it’s dealing with loosely-coupled architecture. So, you can have that ability to integrate with your IVR or integrate with your agent online system. And at the end of the day it’s really getting the direction on your web development should be taken from the business in concert with IT. It shouldn’t be an IT-driven function, just like it shouldn’t be an HR-driven function. It really should be much more holistic. It should be driven from the business, but certainly looking at the technology and taking guidance from your IT department.
I always recommend using an agile development methodology and you can wow you technologists when you go back to your meetings and say, “Hey, are we using agile development?” It’s really just using a much more flexible development methodology, developing bits and pieces at a time rather than having all the specifications up front and then going through the entire project right from the get go.
I’m a big proponent of designs that should be minimalist in nature. Again, not having the dancing macaroni and the nine different flash animations on your site. At the end of the day we’re selling insurance online. It’s not sexy. It’s boring. So, we want to make that very minimalist in nature. We want to make it easy. We want people to get in, get out and move on and go to YouTube.
With that in mind, we have some pretty complex systems that we’re building. I would always recommend – don’t build everything at once because you’ll get bogged down in so many details and there are so many things that can go wrong if you try to launch one mega system at once. I have yet to find one project that was all-encompassing that was launched without a hitch. I always recommend taking a phased approach. You can get all the bugs out of the way. Your launch time is much more quick. You actually save money when you’re launching in phases because you’re segmenting your development and halfway down the road you may find that phase 4 is no longer necessary. Whereas if you’re doing the whole thing at once, now phase 4 is part of the project and you’re just adding that cost.
Again, exceeding users’ expectations for service and for design. What do the customers expect when they go to Target.com? When they go to Old Navy.com? What are they expecting? What are they expecting when they go to their bank? So, finding that expectation and exceeding that expectation not only for online services capability but also from design capability.
At the end of the day perpetual refinement is going to be key. You’re not going to launch the site and then sit back and watch the money roll in. You’re going to have to refine it over and over again. An e-commerce solution is a living, breathing thing. You need to keep that in mind.
So, how does Aon do it? Well, I’ve been here for 11 years. I started out as what then was called a webmaster and it was really having that big vision, but starting small and having the ability to scale fast. That’s what I would recommend. Any solution you put out online, start small, don’t make that huge investment if you don’t have to, but make sure that you have scalability in mind. You always want to get the buyer to the store and we’re very cognizant of that and you’ll always hear me refer to my online property as stores. We have over 50 sites here at Aon Affinity. So, we try to get the buyer to the store and we get them in through direct mail, space ads, search engines, newsletters – we don’t rely on just one vehicle to drive people into our store.
We also give them a call to action. Again, not just putting the Web address out there, but giving them a reason to come to the site and give them a reason to come in and buy. We entice them to walk into our store. Nothing drives me more insane than when you go to a carrier or a broker and they have this screen that pops up and says please enter your name, address, phone number, e-mail address before you can come in. That would be like me putting the velvet rope in front Best Buy.com
, saying you can’t come in and look for a new DVD player, you’ve got to give me all this information. It’s insane.
So, we just want to entice them to walk into the store and you do that by giving them functional Web
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