Technical Foul! Overcoming the Negative Effects of Technology

identity theft

By Corie Gist, CISR

Millennials entering the workforce in today’s “paperless” world do not know the pain of using a typewriter to issue certificate renewals and they likely never will. Most certificates are e-mailed, so even a fax machine is a rare site in the average insurance office. While there are countless examples where technology has improved business production, it has also complicated the industry. There is a blind reliance on the computers and programs used in everyday service; that faith, combined with poor communication, often lead to the opportunity for E&O claims through the lack of social comradery.

Computers systems and programs fail. Networks crash and cyber-hackers run rampant on the World Wide Web on a daily basis. From 2005-2012 there were 563.9 million records breached. Fifty-six percent of the breached information was hacking or malware, specifically meant to cause damage that they hope you will be willing to pay for. Thirty percent of the data breached was due to lost or stolen devices, such as laptops and iPhones. The remaining 14% is comprised of insiders, unintended disclosures (often on social media), and payment fraud. Corrupting data is a business of its own and it is important to cover your assets with not only top-notch antivirus software, but also back-up servers that will store your information if you are compromised and come to your rescue with your information.

Additionally, many people become dependent on, or addicted to, the constant stream of information. This constant stream of information that comes with always being “plugged in” or reachable isn’t healthy and is not always what is most productive. It leads to excessive busyness, with symptoms identified by Dr. Susan Koven as fatigue, irritability, insomnia, anxiety, headaches, heartburn, bowel disturbances, back pain, and weight gain. She indicates that while there are no blood tests or X-rays diagnostic of this condition, it's easy to identify. Most Americans recognize that their stress exceeds levels necessary to maintain good health, so we are all paying the consequences of the busyness created. While protecting your business is important, protecting yourself is just as important; you need to protect yourself from the stress that is created from constant connection to work/e-mail and other social networking.

A prompt response to e-mails is encouraged, and even expected, but is not always best. Communicating via e-mail has allowed clients fast and direct access to those who service their accounts, but it has also built a foundation that implies a response is required just as soon as the request is received. For example, if an insured were to e-mail your CSR a question, such as, “Do I have coverage for windshield damage?” the response could be a quick “Yes.” But does that really answer the question? Is there a deductible? Is the auto in question even on the policy? Can the windshield be repaired or will it need to be replaced? Fast is not always best, and a quick, easy answer usually means something was missed. Important details can easily be overlooked when a quick response is given, and you are denying yourself the opportunity to offer additional coverage or simply touch base with the client in a friendly manner.

If the opportunity to develop a personal relationship with a client arises, it should be taken. Educating a client on their coverage is helpful to everyone involved, and when done accurately, will save time and resources during the policy term and beyond. Communicating strictly via e-mail is a detriment to any agency. Picking up the phone to call a client will not only show that you are knowledgeable, but also that you care. Calling more often will give you a chance to develop a personal relationship and will leave you less likely to shoot off a quick response just to pacify a request.

Technology has impacted our social interactions in ways that cannot be measured. Computers and the Internet have changed the way we conduct business on a massive scale to the point of no return. Companies now have more than just the power to outsource work to satellite offices, they now have a plethora of choices, from companies that offer virtual assistants to current employees working from home. This freedom comes with its setbacks as it isolates the workers and does not allow them the opportunity to grow socially. Interacting with others in a healthy setting will develop rapport. Whether socially or work related, communication, in general, builds trust and comradery in most situations.

When employees are isolated in their daily happenings, there is a natural decline in their social skills. There are also health concerns, such as obesity and depression, brought on from less time being active or exercising, mindless eating of unhealthy food while at a keyboard, and lack of human contact. Technology is supposed to “free up” time so that we can exercise, spend time with loved ones and “blow off steam”, but it has turned into just another way to spend more time behind a computer working. A lack of social bonding between coworkers can have a detrimental impact simply by the employees not looking out for one another. This same concept applies to carriers, vendors, and clients alike.

Whether you are new to insurance or are counting down the last few years/months/days to retirement, technology will continue to alter the way business is conducted; adapting to these improvements is key to any successful agency. Technology is more good than bad; it has revolutionized the insurance industry and changed the way clients interact with the service staff. It is also clear that technology is essential, so protecting your company and yourself is not optional; it is required and will become more important as new technology breeds new malware. As backwards as it may sound, slowing down to completely respond to an inquiry will show your clients that you have a vested interest in their business. If your client feels like a priority, and your service staff feels appreciated, you are on your way to creating lasting bonds that will limit potential E&O claims while creating lasting relationships. The less we isolate ourselves with technology, the more bonds we will form and the better our business will become.

2013 Boston Globe column
The American Psychological Association published its Stress In America survey (since 2007)

Corie Gist, CISR, joined Johnson & Wood Insurance Services in Carlsbad, California in early 2014 as an Assistant Account Manager servicing commercial accounts. She is the 2014 California Outstanding CSR of the Year and now aspires to earn her CIC Designation in the near future. Please visit for additional class and designation information.

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