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Insulating CSRs from Back-End Complexities

Pegasystems helps ANICO develop a customer service front-end to improve efficiency.

A diverse product set has helped keep Galveston, TX-based American National Insurance Co. (ANICO)-which sells life, health, annuities, credit and Medicare supplementary insurance-in business for 98 years. But along with businesses, the company has acquired systems, multiplying customer service difficulties.

By the late 1990s, "our CSRs were 'dive-bombing' into multiple legacy systems by different paths," says Gary Kirkham, vice president and director of planning and support, ANICO. The time required to service customers across these systems, as well as the burden of training CSRs to navigate them, "was a constraint to growth and to what we needed to do to service our customers," Kirkham says.

In search of a customer service front-end solution to unify legacy information, Kirkham investigated offerings from Pegasystems (Cambridge,MA), Siebel Systems (San Mateo, CA) and Scopus (which was subsequently acquired by Siebel). Kirkham decided on Pegasystems in part because he concluded the vendor "had a strong history of integrating with large mainframe applications," which suggested a better understanding of ANICO's architecture.

A contract was signed in the first quarter of 1998, and work began in two parallel efforts. "One was Pega working with our technical people to install the base systems, and we had two user groups developing workflow," Kirkham recounts. The two groups corresponded to the carrier's health and credit insurance divisions. At that time, "the business units didn't have the same project rigor as our ITprofessionals, so we had to do some cross-training," Kirkham recalls.

Influenced by the fortuitous timing of the release of Microsoft Windows NT 4.0, "the configuration we chose was to have NT 4.0 solutions that communicated with the workstation," Kirkham says. Consequently, when communicating with source systems, "Pegasystems looks like a user on those systems." When a CSR identifies a customer, Kirkham explains, the Pegasystems solution internally checks its own database to reference such information as time and content of past calls, while externally querying other systems for all information relevant to the call. The information is populated into a "clipboard" feature of the workstation.

The result, observes Kirkham, is that "the CSR looks like the smartest person on the planet, and has been buffered through all the back-end activity they used to have to go through."

The credit insurance application was up-and-running by August '98, providing "a quick win, which demonstrated the power of Pegasystems to the rest of the organization," Kirkham says. The first of four pieces of the health application was brought up in October '98.

A separate business intelligence-focused project carried out between 1999 and 2001 boosted the efficiency of the Pegasystems solution further, Kirkham says. Having populated an IBM (Armonk, NY) DB2-based data warehouse with much of the source information, the Pegasystems solution can access "data that is in the same place, accurate and clean every time."

All things considered, the result has been double-digit improvement in call system efficiency since the Pegasystems solution was installed, Kirkham claims. In ANICO's largest call center over the past five years, the worst grade of service increase was nine percent, the best 33; the worst abandon rate improvement was 37 percent, the best 71. "For average speed of answer, our worst year was a 38 percent increase, and the best was 61 percent," Kirkham says.

Success Shows in Adoption Rate

ANICO will finish the Pegasystems implementations with the addition of life and annuities by the third quarter of 2003. Kirkham says the solution has paid for itself. But since the carrier's IT group charges back for services rendered to business units, Kirkham measures success in their adoption of the system: "Our business units don't choose this because it's the only show in town, but because it's an effective solution that's competitively priced."



COMPANY: American National Insurance Co., Galveston, TX, $12 billion in assets.

LINES OF BUSINESS: Life, health, annuities, credit and Medicare supplemental.

VENDOR/TECHNOLOGY: Pegasystems (Cambridge,MA) business process software and consulting.

CHALLENGE: Simplify CSRs' interactions with back-end processes.

Anthony O'Donnell has covered technology in the insurance industry since 2000, when he joined the editorial staff of Insurance & Technology. As an editor and reporter for I&T and the InformationWeek Financial Services of TechWeb he has written on all areas of information ... View Full Bio

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