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September 23, 2010   Email to Friend 

'My Alfa' Enhances Customer Service On The Web
Marc Pearson

Recent enhancements to Alfa's Web site with the release of My Alfa™ mark the biggest evolution of the site to date and allow customers more online capabilities than ever before.

The addition marks the second major Web site update in the last year and is one of the many ways Alfa is working to make doing business with the company even easier. The project involved nearly every department in the company, along with business partners including Cognizant, Oracle, Gartner and others.

This new release enhances the "My Alfa" customer service by adding the ability for customers to securely log-on to Alfa's Web site, register and view policy information, request changes, make payments, view their agent's info and print auto insurance ID cards. This is just the beginning of a rapidly expanding project coinciding with a renewed company vision.

"One of our largest competitors commented in its most recent annual report that over 50 percent of new customers initial contact is through the Web," said Steve Rutledge, executive vice president of business development. "The need for a robust Web site is not only driven by the pressure to service customers, but also for initial awareness or exposure to our company. This is especially important, as the current generation prefers everything be done online or with a handheld device."

Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer John Jung said the new Web site marks a dramatic shift in the way Alfa communicates and conducts business online.

"Giving our customers the ability to actually communicate with Alfa is the first step in a direction that will allow us to eventually quote, sell and service our customers who choose to do business with us over the Internet," Jung said. "We have to acknowledge however that the effort is not really a traditional project; rather, it is the start of an entirely new way for us to provide sales and service functions for our customers. Customers who choose to do business with us over the Web will have ever-changing expectations and demands of Alfa. This channel will not remain static; our customers, our competition and emerging technologies will constantly be redefining the landscape of Web-delivered services."

To begin, customers should go to www.alfains.com and click on the "Register Now" link located under the My Alfa log-in box on the home page. Policy and member numbers are required to get started. Required information for auto, property and other insurance policies (except life) can be found on policy declarations, billing notices, automobile ID cards or evidence of insurance forms. My Alfa registration information needed for life insurance policies can be found on policy contract pages and the annual letter. Loan customers can find required information on their loan payment coupon. Customers have to register each policy and will receive a confirmation letter in the mail as an added security measure.

"The process of policy registration is primarily designed to make sure that our customers' private information is protected," said Chris McCorkle, I.S. project manager. "This is always a paramount concern for us in everything we do. We know it will take a few minutes up front to register their policies but once that process is completed, they will have one log-on that they use to access all their information going forward."

With the addition of new Web site features, additional support from the Marketing Resource Center (MRC) is critical. The MRC (1-800-964-2532) is now staffed to handle calls seven days a week from 6 a.m. to midnight (central time). Since customers using My Alfa will likely first call the toll-free number if there is a problem, the department has been heavily involved in testing and training and has the best tools available to assist customers.

"The MRC is here to help our customers with this new functionality," said Susan Adcock, vice president of marketing resources. "As customers are setting up their accounts we do anticipate an increase in call volume. The new features are just a part of an ongoing plan to improve the Web site and add value for Alfa's customers, agents and CSRs."

For Alfa's field force, McCorkle said the changes should be welcome support for assisting customers with their insurance needs.

"I believe that as we enable customers to do many of these kinds of routine self-service tasks online, it will free up agents and CSRs to focus on sales and helping people with more complex issues," McCorkle said. "I also believe that the agent, call center and Internet channels will complement each other providing options for customers to do business with Alfa in the way that is convenient for them."

Rutledge says the future includes improved pricing for the best customers along with better billing and communications. In addition, the company plans in the near future, to allow payments with credit/debit card anywhere, anytime without a fee.

Paying online or by phone can now also be done for free. Effective Sept. 1, the $3.50 convenience fee previously charged was removed. This is another important change in response to customers and their needs.

"When you consider an enhancement to customer service, you must first consider what it is that customers want," Rutledge said. "It is clear that customers want to buy and service policies online (especially the younger age groups). As we consider improvements in customer service, we must consider all portals that customers want to use (Web, service center, home office and call center) and create the best environment possible."

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