Usability - Productivity - Business - The web - Singapore & Twins

Buying insurance

Technology is supposed to make our life easier? (Ok for the ones who fell of their chairs laughing, come back and read on). I was walking with an insurance agent through the process of filling in an application for a life insurance on the agent's laptop.

Technology wise it was very impressive. The whole application is browser based and when the agent started it up, Tomcat and a database booted up (took about 2min+). It also had a digital write pad to sign the application. I don't know if it is working, since we failed much earlier.

The application nicely showed how the internal working of the insurance is and what shortcuts were taken to get it to work. (I'm German and a Singapore Permanent Resident -- which is important further down).

First we had to fill in all particulars including my wife's and my children particulars (since they will be the beneficiaries). Part of this is the IC number (IC = Identity Card), which is basically the Primary Key for every Human in Singapore. Unfortunately we were sitting at Starbucks (Insurance agents do that a lot) and I didn't carry the birth certs of them with me.

So the application complained: IC is missing. Since the number is checksum validated filling in 000000000 wouldn't work. Bummer - end of show. If the person (architect, developer, steering committee etc.) designing the application would have gone to real client situations with their agents, they would know, that information is ALLWAYS incomplete. So kindly remarking: “This information is missing, we added and item on the checklist, you can continue now” would have been the sensible thing.

Since I’m very persistent when I want to find out about software, we simply entered my IC for my boys and could continue. The local database already had my IC, so a check was missing here. I ask myself what is more critical: an information that is missing and can be completed or false data for the sake of data entry.

We continued filling in the form and I waded through screens and screens of meaningless questionnaires. To be fair: I exactly knew what product I wanted and the agent pointed out, that is was a requirement by law, so clients are well informed before making a decision. This is kind of an improvement since on paper you can be asked to sign without event looking at the questions.

Next bummer, I was asked to fill in a foreigner questionnaire. This confused me, since PRs are treated like citizens. Questions like: Why do you want to buy insurance in Singapore, What happens if you leave Singapore etc. We finally figured out that something must be wrong when the “Legal Status” field only offered “Employment pass, Social pass etc. but not Permanent Resident”. So we canceled this questionnaire and went back to the base data.

When inspecting the form in more detail we found out that there is a nationality in the system called: “Singapore Permanent Resident”. Since I only scrolled to “G” I missed that entry. Seems like a requirement has been added and adding a new field was too complicated (like: if not defaultNationality (Singapore) show Status: PR, Employment pass etc). Happy that we found the “bug” we updated the base data, only to be prompted “Data is inconsistent” when we wanted to continue with the save application. No further explanation or suggestion was provided what can be done to fix this problem.

Guess what: I didn’t buy insurance that day!

Posted by on 07 February 2005 | Comments (0) | categories: Singapore


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