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Data & Analytics

01:46 PM
Daniel St. John, Director of IT and CRM, California State Auto Association
Daniel St. John, Director of IT and CRM, California State Auto Association
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Customer Information system: Keystone of Successful CRM

Insurers have traditionally struggled with the implementation of major CRM systems because of the incompatibility of disparate legacy systems. However, leading-edge insurers are now turning to new CRM systems that quickly and easily integrate with numerous legacy systems.

Traditionally, insurers have struggled with the implementation of major CRM systems because of the incompatibility of disparate legacy systems. However, leading-edge insurers now are turning to new CRM systems that quickly and easily integrates with numerous legacy systems, located across siloed business units, to create a single view of the customer. These solutions allow companies to present one "face" to customers across business units and channels, reduce call times, increase CSR productivity, improve customer retention and drive new revenues through personalized cross-selling initiatives.

Much attention typically is paid to the capability of these systems to achieve a "360-degree view" of a customer, creating cross-sell/up-sell opportunities, enhanced customer analytics and targeted customer campaigns. However, the customer information systems (CIS) or customer information files (CIS) that enable these capabilities are commonly given short shrift.

Behind the most successful CRM solutions, you will find a clear enterprise customer data strategy and the supporting technologies that enable a company to pull together all of its customer data across products, relationships and resulting interactions.

Though CRM systems do bring customer data together from across an enterprise, they are not designed to be a source of record for customer information. A CIS will enable a company to access the same data that it might leverage for its customer call routing for consolidating a customer bill or statement, driving cross-sell opportunities or even supporting a personalized Internet experience.

CIS is especially important to companies that have multiple products lines that conduct business across multiple channels or have increased their portfolio through acquisition and mergers. It is in such scenarios where a company normally only can identify a customer through a single product -- and therefore have only a limited view of a customer. CIS systems enable a company to bridge customer data across products and even among multiple companies.

Depending on the size of a company, these systems can come in many shapes and sizes. The keys to a successful customer information system are that it can be integrated with both legacy mainframe systems and midrange applications easily, have a data model that can handle both household and customer-level information, and can be supported and maintained easily on a 24-7 basis.

Keep It Simple

A best-in-class CIS system is designed for performance and easy integration and thus should only carry the most basic customer information needed to provide a view and identity for the customer. This includes a household ID, customer and product keys, primary contact information, basic demographic data, and any model scores (such as customer segmentation) that provide your customer-facing systems the value or needs of a given customer or household.

Though many CRM solutions or even product systems (such as your core insurance system) have data models that can handle household-to-customer product linkage, the ability to provide middleware or service systems (e.g. Internet, telephony) easy access to these systems usually requires data replication and additional coding, and can lead to performance challenges.

Therefore it is best to develop a stand-alone system/database and infrastructure. Though there are several companies that provide these systems off the shelf, from a technology standpoint these systems are not complex -- with the exception of the data model -- so one will find most companies developing these systems internally. The most challenging work on a CIS is not the physical development of the system, but the logic and business rules that link the data. Best-in-class CIS not only can link a customer to multiple products, but also link the role a customer plays with a given product. A customer might be a primary of one account and a beneficiary for another product.

Additionally, a company should have the ability to merge large amounts of data using name and addresses, contact information (e.g. phone number, e-mail address) and any other data that would allow linking to customers. To ensure a constant customer experience it is critical to have a consistent method, processes and infrastructure to develop customer and household ID's.

Though insurance companies are relying on CRM systems more heavily to generate revenue, reduce costs and improve customer satisfaction, a CIS is equally important and is critical in developing a consistent, single face to the customer.

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