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CRM Systems Allow Agents To Customize Service

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Customer relationship management solutions for today’s insurance industry are evolving into comprehensive suites that wrap around both transaction systems and business processes with embedded analytics, thus benefiting all parties involved in the business of insurance.

CRM suites for the insurance industry need to create a unified view of the customer across all interactions within the enterprise. These new CRM suites benefit customers with improved service and distribution options, and give agents the ability to compete and add value by customizing their service to individual client needs.

Additionally, these comprehensive systems benefit insurance carriers by improving business processes and, most importantly, by allowing carriers to leverage transactional data into business intelligence.

Finally, the insurance industry has access to real-time information on customer profitability. Software can now help insurers identify and appropriately market to an individual customer based upon the customer’s real time needs, such as their marital status or period of life such as retirement or graduation from college.

Insurance buyers now have more options in purchasing insurance and more ways to interact with their insurance suppliers. Customers can purchase insurance through online sites or exchanges, through agencies or directly through brokers and insurance companies.

More importantly, customers are demanding multiple channels through which to interact with their providers for service: face-to-face contact, telephone, Web, e-mail and mobile devices. Insurers who can’t provide superior customer service are destined to perish.

This new business reality has elevated the role of CRM technologies in combination with analytics into a prominent position in the insurance industry. CRM combined with analytic technologies focuses on managing all interactions that the organization has with its customers, maintaining contact information and customer status in order to leverage the data in a variety of business applications.

CRM products can help insurers serve their customers better by allowing agents or their customers to access any information they need, whenever they need it, via whatever mechanism they choose. The goal is for the customer to have a consistent experience across multiple channels, and for the insurer to have a common view of each customer’s interactions and contact histories.

New CRM technology with server-based integration on open Internet standards supports integration of systems and content, both inside and outside the enterprise. As a result, insurance companies can leverage the knowledge of their customers’ activities and empower employees with the knowledge of that business and ultimately demonstrate a true understanding of their customers and the enterprise. This technology helps agents deliver value-added advice and service to customers and enables agents and insurers to provide better service to clients making claims.

These new CRM technologies offer insurance companies the opportunity to finally attain the profitable customer relationships that they’ve been seeking. In tight economic times, insurers need a solution that will deliver flexibility to understand and model customer and product information. CRM solutions need to give insurers a total picture of their clients in order to deliver a superior customer experience.

In addition, insurers are moving from a focus on optimizing customer relationships to optimizing all enterprise relationshipscustomers, suppliers, employees, and partners through collaborative business processes. To effectively support this trend, CRM solutions are evolving into total stakeholder management solutions (TSM). TSM involves a comprehensive CRM suite that delivers a sell-side architecture representing the convergence of analytical and operational CRM functionality across all channels.

TSM enables universal access for all constituentscustomers, suppliers, employees and partnersas well as the seamless integration of the sell-side architecture with the buy-side architecture for solutions like service procurement and real time access to pricing information.

A key decision point in choosing a CRM product is to find one that balances the needs of the insurance agent with the needs of the carrier. A good CRM product will provide the tools and functionality that allows agents to provide better service, while allowing insurers to access business intelligence, giving them a macro view.

Good CRM applications allow insurance agents to maintain control over the customer relationship, while allowing insurers to see the critical data that allows them to react to marketplace demands, providing a better product for the end customer.

The key to successful customer service is to understand the overall relationship the organization has with the customer. This can be accomplished with the aid of software that is easy to use and can accurately track all aspects of the customer relationship, while enabling a company to provide a consistent experience to the customer, through whichever interaction method the user chooses.

A customer should be able to initiate contact with the organization through one channel, such as the Internet, and then complete the interaction through another, like the call center, with a seamless transfer of information between the different underlying technologies.

While carriers have invested in CRM systems and made progress in integrating channels and data, many have yet to connect back-end systems with front-end customer-facing systems. As a result they do not have a comprehensive real-time view of the customer.

The good news is there are new technologies available that can simplify the integration process. CRM vendors now offer server-based integration on open Internet standards such as XML (extensible markup language, a data definition language for structuring complex information) and HTTP (a communications protocol for transporting data), which support integration of systems and content, both inside and outside the enterprise.

A key focus for insurance organizations in their quest for improved and more profitable relationships is “customer analytics”business intelligence applications targeted at customer relationships. Analytics gives functional users the tools to measure how effective they are in their customer relationships and the ability to understand which customers are high-value and require higher levels of service. Analytics enables carriers to understand, anticipate and influence customer behavior.

By applying analytics to data from across the agency (including existing analytical applications), rather than just the stand-alone CRM system, insurance companies are empowered to evaluate customer data for patterns that will help them understand their customers, anticipate their future behavior, and even influence customer decisions.

This knowledge is delivered to the front-line personnel who need the information to make everyday decisions that affect customer experiences. With analytics, everyone in the institution can deliver on the company’s customer-centric objectives.

When considering implementing CRM/TSM, carriers should look to vendors that are able to deliver vertically rich enterprise applications that are easily separated and implemented as “best of breed” solutions without losing functionality.

In addition, carriers should evaluate the ability to integrate these solutions with other homegrown and third party software.

Finally, CRM vendors and implementers should be able to define a non-classical or non-tangible ROI so that CRM implementations are not judged solely on their cost savings. The success of personalized marketing campaigns, the ability to up-sell and cross-sell customers, the ability to retain and attract assets and the total wallet share should also be included in ROI evaluations.

CRM enables carriers to redefine their customer base and fully utilize the information to which they have access. New CRM technologies, including analytics and TSM, offer insurance companies the opportunity to finally attain the profitable stakeholder and customer relationships that they’ve been seeking.

is vice president, Global Financial Services at PeopleSoft, Inc. Pleasanton, Calif. She can be reached at [email protected]

Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, January 28, 2002. Copyright 2002 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.

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