Few technology concepts have been hyped more and delivered less to the insurance industry than customer relationship management, also known as CRM.
At the beginning of this century, pundits, including yours truly, were singing the praises of this technology initiative, which basically promised that technology would enable us to determine the wants and needs of our most profitable customers and then help us to develop products and services aimed at those very profitable folks.
A few years and multiple problems later, however (estimates of the failure rate are as high as 70%, with losses approaching $100 million), insurers were left licking their wounds and cursing the day they had first heard the dreaded acronym.
Reasons offered for the CRM failures ranged from user incompetence to overblown expectations (driven by over-zealous vendors) to failure of companies to make the necessary cultural and policy changes that would allow the technology to work.
All of these were contributing causes to be sure, but one excuse almost no one offered was that the technology itself was bad–and rightly so, because the technology works. While some might wish to dismiss the whole CRM idea as a hoax (rather than admit their own complicity in its failure), it was clearly not that.
Nonetheless, such a striking record of failure seemed sure to put a fork in CRM, at least as far as the insurance industry was concerned. But a funny thing has happened in the last several years. CRM has not been totally abandoned by our industry. On the contrary, it seems that while insurers couldn’t handle the totality of CRM, they are embracing some of its parts.
For me, this situation calls to mind the 1962 cult classic film “The Brain That Wouldn’t Die” (also released as “The Head That Wouldn’t Die” for reasons that will become apparent as you read on). This black-and-white B-movie is the story of a gifted doctor and surgeon whose own arrogance and thirst for control leads to tragedy.
In the film, our doctor has developed an anti-rejection drug he believes will change medicine and the world. His doctor father warns him about the dangers of playing God, but to no avail, as he undertakes some particularly grisly experiments with various body parts–all in the name of “science.”