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September 23, 2010   Email to Friend 

Alfa Introduces First App For Apple iPhone
By Marc Pearson

Alfa continues to rapidly adapt to the way customers want to do business today, deploying its first ever iPhone application, Alfa2Go, last month.

The free app, now available through Apple's iTunes app store, was the culmination of work between a cross-department team at Alfa and a partnership with students at the University of Alabama's Capstone program. Key features in version 1.0 include:

• Find an Alfa Agent - Use this feature to find an agent nearby.

• Accident Checklist - Helps users with specific steps to follow after an auto accident.

• Review customer member benefits -- View membership benefits with links to providers' web sites.

• Easy Access to Alfa's Call Center -- Quickly connect to Alfa's toll free call center.

• Locate a Tow Service -- Use this feature to locate the nearest towing service.

• Report an Auto Glass Claim -- Report a glass claim to Alfa using this feature.

"Alfa2Go was primarily the vision of Jody Carroll, a senior IT business analyst who is leading this part of the Internet strategy," said John Jung, senior vice president and chief information officer. "Jody, along with a cross-functional team made up of the demographic who use this technology daily, Alfa's Web Team and with IT students from the Capstone Program at the University of Alabama, created a series of small applications for our customers. Nothing we develop will remain static. Our customers, our competition and the technology itself will continue to place demands on us that will be unprecedented and will require us to continue to invest in this distribution channel."

Carroll said the project is important because Alfa must be ready to service customers who choose to do business via mobile devices. He stressed that the new app is the first phase with more features already on the drawing board.

He added that the team realizes the iPhone is not the only smart phone in use and that as we move forward we must include other devices like Blackberry and the Android. Future plans are to purchase software that allows Alfa to develop once and deploy it to these various smart phones.

A key to this work was the cross functional team. "In December of 2009, we formed this team of Alfa employees that meets the demographics of mobile device users," said Carroll. The goal of this group was to outline Alfa's response to this growing technology and develop a strategic roadmap for Alfa's mobile technology initiative. Though this roadmap is still in the development stage, the group did complete Phase One of this strategy and oversaw the initial development of Alfa's mobile app (Alfa2Go)."

Walter Overby, vice president of corporate Internet and e-business, has been tasked with overseeing the Web efforts at Alfa, including the smart phone applications. He said it's critical to be proactive in this rapidly evolving area of Web development.

"The one constant is the world is change," said Overby. "Beyond our Agent/CSR, Call Center and Web channels, more and more business is being conducted via smart phones. We have committed to meet our competition in this space. Our plans are to offer the same features on these smart phones as we offer through our Web site. As Jody mentioned, our initial approach was to establish a cross functional team of Alfa employees who understand and use these devices, learn as we go and that's why we have started with the iPhone. Our plans are ultimately to develop and deliver the same Web site functionality to the same devices as our competition."

Further updates to the app will be coming, but for now, be sure to go to iTunes, search for Alfa Insurance in the app store and download the Alfa2Go app on your iPhone today!

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