To make life easier for its customers, and to increase sales in the process, Esurance (San Francisco; $145.5 million in written premium), the online direct-to-consumer personal auto insurer, recently launched the Push to Talk fully hosted VoIP service powered by eStara (Reston, Va.) on its Web site. Esurance dubs the feature - which allows customers to click an on-screen icon and speak with a licensed Esurance adviser without leaving the site (PC to phone) and with nothing more than a microphone and speakers - "click to call." Users also can enter a phone number into a pop-up window and receive a call from an Esurance adviser over a phone line within seconds.
"Push to Talk caught our attention because we direct most of our advertising dollars toward bringing people to our Web site and encouraging them to call us," says John Swigart, chief marketing officer, Esurance. When a customer launches the feature, the eStara system automatically routes the call to the appropriate Esurance agent based on the customer's location and information gathered from the Web site. This eliminates dialing and fumbling with interactive voice response (IVR) menus.
The solution's platform is built on a flexible VoIP signaling protocol, Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), and consists of geographically distributed data centers in the U.S. and Europe using Linux-based servers, globally distributed call servers and a network of seven public switched telephone network (PSTN) providers. "Esurance simply needed to add two lines of HTML code onto their Web site." explains Ian Halpern, director of marketing, eStara. "Because inbound Push to Talk calls come into the company's PBX [private branch exchange] just like a standard direct-dial telephone call, they can be routed, tracked and handled just like any other phone call. From the call center and IT perspective, a Push to Talk implementation requires no new additional hardware or changes to the existing system or infrastructure," he says.
According to Esurance's Swigart, "We chose eStara because we observed the technology through outside Web sites and decided it would meet our business needs." He notes that the service has increased Esurance's purchase inquiries by 30 percent. "It's the kind of technology we like: easy to understand, meets a specific need, is flexible and quick to implement, and delivers a fast return."