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Vendors Put Wheels On CRM Systems

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Customer relationship management–already established as an essential, marketing-driven technology in insurance–is finding new life among agents and carriers thanks to vendors who are making their CRM products mobile.

Clarence Smith, an assistant vice president with Conning Research and Consulting Inc., Hartford, Conn., thinks the real benefit of mobile systems lies within a subset of CRM that he calls partner relationship management. This is the ability of insurers to exchange customer information with their agents and claims managers.

In insurance, its usually the agent, not the customer, who does business with the back office, Smith notes. If the CRM makes it easier for the agent to exchange data, that will benefit his company through more cross-sales opportunities and higher customer retention, he observes.

“The key is gaining the right information and using that to provide better services,” Smith says.

Siebel Systems, Inc., San Mateo, Calif. has added a wireless capability to its suite of customer relationship management products that it says can help insurers strengthen their sales and service capabilities.

The new product, introduced in March and dubbed Siebel 7 Mobile Solutions, gives businesses a way to bring CRM functions to the field, where sales people and claims handlers could use mobile phones and pagers, handhelds, notebooks and voice systems to synchronize data with their home offices, a company spokesman says

According to, Brian Stone, director of product marketing, mobile solutions, for Siebel, Siebel 7 includes a wireless messaging system that allows people in the field to use their phones or handhelds to exchange messages with each other or the home office. The system uses such technologies as short message service, telocator alphanumeric protocol (used for submitting numeric or alphanumeric messages through paging services) or standard e-mail, Siebel notes.

Another module permits real-time access to customer information in the back office, using wireless application protocol (WAP) or a Web browser on a mobile phone or handheld.

The ability to exchange and share client account and other information quickly significantly boosts sales force productivity and increases customer satisfaction, says Stone.

“Enterprises are recognizing the importance of CRM, and mobile is an integral component of that,” he contends.

Salespeople gain from having contact and account information when needed through mobile devices, Stone continues. The same technology lets them generate and transmit call reports quickly, so sales managers can readily see what clients theyve met and when, what products were discussed and what business was transacted.

Other vendors offering wireless CRM systems include PeopleSoft, Pleasanton, Calif., eAgency Systems, Inc., Newport Beach, Calif. and SAP, Walldorf, Germany.

In March, PeopleSoft released the latest upgrade to its CRM product suite, including two mobile applications. PeopleSoft CRM 8.4s mobile sales and mobile field service applications let employees in the field access customer data via handheld devices, the company says.

In February, eAgency Systems, Inc., a wireless sales force automation and customer relationship management provider, announced an agreement with mobile communications manufacturer Research In Motion Limited, Waterloo, Ontario, focused on the needs of insurance and financial services companies. Under the arrangement, the two companies will jointly market the eAgency platform to connect financial professionals to their corporate database via RIMs BlackBerry handhelds.

SAP is offering mySAP CRM as part if its SAP Mobile Engine, a platform designed to enable businesses to support sales and service people with information they need and to dispatch them to customer sites quickly. The system can be used to update customer information in real-time or saved on a handheld device and then synchronized with the company database later, the company says.

SAP recently announced it would release version 3 of mySAP CRM in August.

Stephen Ross, an analyst with Meridien Research, Inc., Newton, Mass., says Siebels wireless solution rounds out its already formidable CRM package.

“When it comes to wireless, a lot of vendors claim to offer the same capability, but at the same time are not leveraged as much [as Siebel is] in the technology,” Ross says. “Their products may require significant customization to get [the mobile] channel up and running equal to other channels. Providers that target insurance companies may offer full multi-channel capability, but its the level of service they can provide that the institution needs to look at.”

Siebel also sells a scaled-down version of Siebel 7 for “thin” clients, that is, those needing wireless messaging for sales and service personnel in the field, running through browsers without special software.

Costs of such systems can range from $500 per user for thin clients to as high as $3,000 for full clients, Stone says, with a wide range of prices in between depending on volume of use and other factors.

Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, July 8, 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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