As commercial insurance buyers look forward to more favorable cycles, they can at least take stock in the fact that the market is delivering one product that will simplify their lives: the Internet-protocol phone.
The phones allow users to switch networks, from a Local Area Network to a cellular network, for example, without interruption.
"Inside a building, you would receive your phone calls over the building's LAN network," said Jim Wojnarowski, director of industry standards and technical marketing for Motorola Seamless Mobility Group.
"If you were in a car or in a distant city, you would get it over the local cellular network, and it could even have capability to switch networks in the middle of the call. This presents a number of different ways a company can attain cost savings. You only have to give out one phone number."
Beth Dillon, telecommunications operations analyst for Permanent General Assurance Corp., an automobile insurer that insures risky drivers in remote places, says 12 of the company's 200 agents have been using Internet-protocol phones for nearly two years.
"We're experimenting with it in Nashville to cut down on turnover rate, so that employees don't have to drive in an hour to work," said Dillon. "These are at-home workers, telecommuters that function as call center agents from their home. But to the general customer it's seamless?they don't know they are talking to someone in their home."
Permanent General uses the services of vendor Avaya Inc.
Lawrence Byrd, marketing director, communications applications of Avaya, says Internet-protocol phones are useful--indeed almost essential--in a variety of settings.
Take, for example, a large East Coast insurer with 300 or 400 offices. "What's the cost to them of not answering the phone?" Byrd said. "One believed the cost was in the millions of dollars.
Coming soon are 5 gigahertz phones from Motorola. These new phones are expected to cut down even further on interference.
Dillon said new technology related to Internet-protocol communication offers plenty of opportunity to save money, but that executives have to be creative to do so.
The use of so-called "IP trunking," for example, so that calls between Illinois, Ohio and California go over the Internet protocol, has saved the company $8,000 a month.
February 1, 2005
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