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01:13 PM
Steven Marlin, InformationWeek
Steven Marlin, InformationWeek
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Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee is putting IT resources into improving customer service.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee (BCBSTN, Chattanooga) is putting IT resources into improving customer service. The health insurer, with $1.2 billion in assets, has built an online system that lets independent brokers get rate quotes at warp speed. The system is particularly important when it comes to providing fast answers to the small employers--those with two to 150 employees--that represent 85 percent of the insurer's revenue.

With Blue Cross' old quote system, based on Microsoft's Visual Foxpro database, brokers faxed or e-mailed rate requests, then waited hours or even days for responses. The system was cumbersome, fraught with bad data and had to be updated manually.

Four years ago, the insurer rewrote the system in VisualBasic and integrated it with SalesLogix, Best Software Inc.'s (Irvine, Calif.) sales automation software. The resulting system let sales-support staff get rates quickly that could be faxed or e-mailed back to brokers, many of whom weren't using computers yet. The set-up was enhanced last year to let brokers obtain rates via a secure extranet, called BlueWizard. They submit "quick quote" forms with details such as businesses' names, demographics, coverage requests, and employee censuses, and answers come directly to the brokers. "We brought an experience that could take a half-hour down to just minutes," says Andrea Cooling, a marketing consultant at BCBSTN.

Now the insurer's challenge is to get brokers to use the technology. Only about 350 of the 2,500 brokers BCBSTN works with use the system. The rest continue to fax or e-mail customer information. BCBSTN last year sent each broker a stopwatch with the accompanying message: BlueWizard lets you "count the time needed to get rates on a stopwatch."

Blue Cross isn't letting up. Over the next six months, it plans to build a direct connection between SalesLogix and Facets, its core transaction system from TriZetto Inc. (Newport Beach, Calif.), eliminating the need to re-enter customer information. "Once we complete a sale or renewal," Cooling says, "we want to be able to pass that data from SalesLogix to Facets electronically."

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in InformationWeek, a sister publication of Insurance & Technology, and part of the InformationWeek Media Network.

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