Connecting With the Customer.
Insurance customers are increasingly interacting through new and multiple channels from which they expect consistent, high-quality service. Insurers need to meet these demands or risk losing business to financial-services providers that are better at meeting customers' growing needs. Insurers' customer-satisfaction ratings generally have been below those of other financial-services businesses. To succeed, insurers must have a holistic, integrated solution to deliver customer relationship management.
The financial-services industry is one of the largest users of customer relationship management, with 1999 spending of $6.5 billion, which is projected to reach $24 billion by 2004. Within this industry, banking and asset-management sectors lead in overall adoption of operational and analytical customer relationship management solutions, while the insurance sector lags.
To successfully implement a customer relationship management system, an insurer needs a well-designed strategy from an organizational perspective as well as an integrated technological approach and aligned business processes.
The core of a successful integrated customer relationship management system begins with the definition of a customer-centric business strategy that is focused on:
* identifying the most valuable existing and future customers as well as distributors;
* understanding customers' and distributors' evolving interaction and service needs;
* developing clear goals and strategies for using customer relationship management that will provide competitive advantages in serving targeted customers and distributors;
* re-engineering business processes and organizational approaches to take advantage of new technologies;
* defining and monitoring specific desired service levels and resultant benefits from customer relationship management implementation; and
* aligning business leaders' performance measurement factors and compensation approaches to achieving customer-service objectives.
From a technology perspective, successful implementation is dependent upon establishing an appropriate technological architecture, a clear integration strategy with existing systems and the adoption of open standards. This is best achieved by:
* identifying the right technology point solutions to construct an open architecture that avoids heavy investments and dependencies;
* mapping key requirements to packaged solutions while realizing that no single package will provide all required functionality;
* developing a logical and realizable integration strategy for master information and key transactional data as a "stand-alone" customer relationship management implementation;
* aligning product-driven mainframe legacy systems with customer- and distributor-driven online systems via enterprise-application integration;
* recognizing that best-in-class applications will change over time; and
* converging multiple customer communication channels into a consistent customer-interaction management system.
It has become a significant challenge to implement a technology architecture for customer relationship management. While numerous existing and emerging applications are well suited to meet specific needs in managing customer relationships, comprehensive approaches are rarely available. A prepackaged solution that integrates and consolidates across the company may be an insurer's best approach on a purchased or hosted basis.
Traditional call centers processed customers' and distributors' telephone calls. Today, a contact center is expected to operate via e-mail, live chat, computer-telephony integration, interactive voice-response systems, broadband and faxes. In the not-so-distant future, leading-edge insurers will use mobile commerce to enhance the customer experience.
The challenge for insurers is to provide a consistent response, regardless of the interaction channel. For example, a customer's query via an online transaction should provide exactly the same result as a telephone call-center agent transaction. Hence, master data and key historical data need to be available to all channels, stressing the need for an integrated platform. A system that combines communication, transactional and analytical capabilities is now a requirement.
Steven Landberg, a Best's Review columnist, heads the insurance business for Nextera Interactive, an e-commerce consulting firm.
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|Date:||Jan 1, 2001|
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