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When you're stuck on an aircraft carrier in the middle of the Pacific, you don't want to waste the precious few minutes of poky Internet access you get each day waiting for content-heavy pages to load. That's one reason USAA, which offers insurance and banking services to military personnel and their families, just launched its mobile Web service. Along with handheld access to balances, proof-of-insurance cards, and bill-paying services, this gives customers a stripped down site for faster page loads.
The new mobile site is just one way USAA, the top-rated company in our survey, made technology a priority in 2007. Over the past year some 370,000 of USAA's members began scanning checks on their home computers to deposit electronically—a helpful service especially for people subjected to the vagaries of intercontinental mail. This year the $13.4 billion company will also give customers the ability to send and receive text messages to check their account balances. "We would go completely broke trying to chase our members around the world," says Craig Hopkins, vice-president for e-business solutions. "They don't let us put our banks on submarines."
Other tech upgrades are less visible to customers. Last year, USAA began revamping the software used by call-center reps. The new interface looks exactly like the Web site customers see, which helps reps more easily follow along with customers' concerns. Already in use in one of the company's personal-property lines, the new software should also cut costs for USAA. Training that once took six hours on that line's old system now takes just two.
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