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Optimizing Multi-Channel

Sales force automation and enterprise incentive compensation systems not only help make insurers' sales efforts more productive, they also improve customer service, customer retention and compliance.

Sales force automation and enterprise incentive compensation systems not only help make insurers' sales efforts more productive, they also improve customer service, customer retention and compliance.

Q. What challenges do insurers face in sales and distribution, and how can sales force automation and enterprise incentive compensation systems address them?

A. James Lazarz, CUNA Mutual: Some of our key distribution challenges surround the proper segmentation of our customer base and applying the best customer coverage model to serve those segments. That, in turn, involves making sure we have the right job designs for our sales force and the right compensation plans to support their success. EIC systems enable us not only to quickly, accurately and cost effectively administer changing compensation plans that support changing company strategy, but such systems also provide a wealth of management information that enables good decision making by our sales leaders.

A. Russell J. Pass, Bridge Strategy Group: The fundamental challenges remain attracting and retaining high-profitability customers and keeping agents both happy and productive. Insurers are grappling with how to provide a consistent, high-quality experience to customers and agents across multiple channels. They are looking for ways to provide a rapid underwriting response without sacrificing accuracy and quality. They are dealing with challenges resulting from the consolidation of independent agents into an ever-smaller number of ever-larger agencies. And, of course, there are the requirements of greater transparency and Sarbanes-Oxley compliance. EIC and SFA (or customer relationship management) have a role to play in each of these areas.

A. Cindy Saccocia, TowerGroup: Life and annuity insurers tend to have a large third-party distribution network, so they're working a lot with banks, broker-dealers and wire houses. When insurers look at enterprise incentive compensation, they want to make sure that they're paying these distributors the right amount of money in a timely manner. L&A insurers use SFA most often to coordinate the activities of their internal and external wholesalers who promote and establish partnerships with the distributors in the field. Insurers must keep track of their daily activities to see how they're managing their book of brokers, what type of information the distributors are communicating with brokers and gauging if their activities are actually turning into revenue. SFA helps tie those things together.

A. Chuck Johnston, Callidus Software: The most pressing distribution-centric challenges for many insurers are the proliferation of channels and capitalizing on the opportunity to optimize channel relationships. Independent agents, captive agents, large broker networks, broker-dealers, banks and consumer retail partners all present a different opportunity, selling profile and cost structure to the insurer. SFA, partner management and incentive management systems bridge the gap between a variety of distributor business models and the insurer's back office. An incentive management system not only provides accurate and efficient operational business process between disparate partners, it also provides channel information critical to making product and investment decisions.

Q. What can insurers gain from EIC and SFA? What challenges do they face in implementing the technologies?

A. Lazarz, CUNA Mutual: Sales force automation can make for more productive and more informed salespeople. Our EIC solution not only makes our job easier in compensation administration, but the Web-based data delivery of both compensation information and production data helps our sales force use information more quickly and completely. While the acceptance of new technology can be a challenge, in the EIC case, the training on the Web-based delivery of reports was easy. In the future, we want to use more powerful analytics tools to deliver even more information to our field force.

A. Pass, Bridge Strategy Group: SFA will enable agents to spend more time with prospective customers, make it easier for an underwriter to feed agents with leads and focus agents on those prospects with the greatest potential. EIC can encourage agents to act in an underwriter's interests by aligning agent compensation with company objectives and sales strategies. The evolution of SFA/CRM from a stand-alone application into a fully integrated component of underwriting and policy administration systems, already seen in other industries, will enable the proverbial "single view" of the customer.

A. Johnston, Callidus Software: Enterprise incentive management systems can reduce the operational costs of distribution management, reduce error rates, increase efficiency and speed of service to partners and provide deep insight into channel behavior. The global enterprise view provided by a properly implemented EIM system will give an insurer's executive management a powerful tool in making good distribution decisions. To be successful in implementing such a system, operational data integration across disparate businesses and systems within the insurer is critical, making enterprise application integration tools and well-thought-out business and technology architectures a necessary foundation for success.

Q. What does the industry shift toward an independent agent distribution model demand in terms of automated tools that support EIC and SFA?

Peggy Bresnick Kendler has been a writer for 30 years. She has worked as an editor, publicist and school district technology coordinator. During the past decade, Bresnick Kendler has worked for UBM TechWeb on special financialservices technology-centered ... View Full Bio

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