Innovation: USAA says “Grab your iPhone”

Using your iPhone to deposit checks in your bank account, to initiate insurance claims from the accident scene, and to go toe-to-toe with car salesmen … now, that’s cool stuff, for sure.

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Excerpted from Business Week: Customer Service Champs – USAA’s Battle Plan,  February 18, 2010

The provider of financial services for military families uses remote technology and a keen focus on clients to stay atop our annual customer service rating

When customers want to deposit checks, they don’t need to use an ATM, a teller at a branch, or even a stamped envelope and deposit slip. Rather, they can take a  picture of the check with their iPhone, use an app to send it to their bank, and within minutes the money shows up in their accounts. Giants like Bank of America are just testing a similar service.

In almost everything it does, the financial-services outfit puts itself in the spit-shined shoes of its often highly mobile military customers, many of whom face unique financial challenges.

USAA was the first bank to allow iPhone deposits, it routinely texts balances to soldiers in the field, and it heavily discounts customers’ car insurance while they are deployed overseas.

“They do all this really creative stuff … There is nobody on this earth who understands their customer better than USAA.”

No fewer than 87% of respondents to J.D. Power’s syndicated surveys say they will definitely buy from the company again, far higher than the average, which is just 36%. Its client retention rate? A near-perfect 97.8%.

Reps are armed with software that lets them view a history of the online screens a particular customer has viewed on USAA’s Web site, letting them know what policies or business lines the customer was perusing — and may be ready to buy.

Another high-tech service USAA rolled out in 2008 lets its far-flung customers — a sizable number of whom are young, tech-savvy, and living paycheck to paycheck — get text messages about their account balances before, say, making a big purchase.

Later in 2010, USAA is planning mobile peer-to-peer payments, which let customers e-mail or text-message money to friends or family for immediate deposit, no matter where they are at the time.

USAA was among the first to let customers initiate an insurance claim using their phones from the scene of an accident. And it soon will expand that app so policyholders can attach photos to the claim and complete the entire process via phone. By 2011 customers will even be able to attach voice recordings to their file, immediately retelling exactly what happened.

Also coming this year: a mobile car-buying service that lets customers standing at a dealership snap an iPhone pic of a vehicle’s VIN number and instantly get back insurance quotes, loan terms, and pre-negotiated rates at approved dealerships. “The idea is you can turn that phone around to the salesman and say ‘this is the price I’m going to pay.’ ”

Besides helping policyholders, such technology benefits USAA.  “If you can have the member self-serve on certain parts of the claim, or the entire claim … clearly there’s an efficiency gain.” 

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