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Technology marches on

 

We’re living in an age of instant communication. Whether it’s the Internet, wireless communication, or a combination of both, we now have the technology to shop, pay bills, do our banking, or order pizza instantly. The downside is, to do so we have to communicate with a computer instead of a person.

Whether this is more convenient or effective for us as individuals or not is a matter of opinion. But it is certainly more efficient for the businesses we deal with. Having us do our business with ultra fast computers permits businesses to handle many more transactions per time period than they could only a few years ago when humans had to be on the other end of the telephone.

COPA is like all other businesses and associations, we must move forward with utilizing these technologies in order to continually provide more and improved member services while keeping costs under control.

In the last Director elections we utilized on-line voting. On-line membership application and renewal has been in effect for several years. Soon our website will be upgraded to accommodate the delivery of more services on-line as we move forward.

This past year COPA’s aircraft insurance provider, Marsh Canada, took a big leap forward by implementing an on-line service for our Silver Wings plan for liability and not-in-motion hull coverage. This permits members to apply for or renew their Silver Wings insurance coverage almost instantly, print an insurance certificate and go flying. This service was turned up on May 1, 2006, and Marsh reports 23 per cent of all applications for the balance of 2006 were handled on-line.

The big test came when all policies had to be renewed for Jan. 1, 2007. As of the end of January, 60 per cent of all 2007 renewals were done on-line. The rest were done with the paper forms via mail or fax. For the first year this indicates a good acceptance rate by members.

While Marsh did not experience any technical difficulties with the system there was an unforeseen bottleneck. It seems more members than usual waited until the last minute to renew, probably because “on-line” has come to mean “instant.” But many members ended up calling Marsh for assistance in navigating the website or to ask questions about the new process. That resulted in Marsh’s customer service phone system becoming overloaded around the Christmas holiday period. Some members may have found this frustrating but it should be a one-time phenomenon.

Those who did renew on-line will recall a short survey at the end of the application process. Marsh’s IT department is studying all the responses as well as any other comments received to insure they make the website more user friendly for next year’s rush. They are committed to making this work even better for us.

The Gold Wings plan also went on-line. This plan, which includes in-motion hull coverage, went on-line in November 2006. Time is required for Marsh, and in some cases the underwriter to assess the risk, so this is not an instant process, but applying online does reduce the waiting time.

Since Gold Wings policies are renewed throughout the year, rather than all at once, the demand on the system is not strained. The member response to the on-line application has been even better. As of the end of January, 82 per cent of Gold Wings applications and renewals were done on the website.

Web based applications involving money and liability always require substantial development efforts because security and data integrity are a high priority. Like banks, insurance companies cannot afford to have something go wrong. The result is often a user interface that is not as friendly as we might like.

Marsh has been developing these two applications, in consultation with COPA, for four years now and even though there is still room for improvement I must say they have done a good job.

And so technology marches on for COPA as it does for the world we live in. Watch for more exciting things to come.

Meanwhile… keep your prop spinning.