The slogan at Benny's, my pizza/Italian take-out restaurant of choice in Hoboken, NJ, where I live, is "You ring, we bring." Believe me, my husband and I ring often, and always order the same thing: small antipasto, lasagne, linguine with white clam sauce. It sure beats cooking!
But, as popular as the restaurant is, Benny's is missing a great opportunity. Because my order is boringly consistent every time I order, the restaurant could save valuable minutes if it could somehow capture and subsequently tap into this information about our eating habits. It would be great if caller ID could display my phone numberwhich would instantly cue the kitchen that the Burgers were ready for their weekly dose of pasta. Even better, the order taker could use that information to say, "Mrs. Burger, wouldn't you like some garlic bread with your linguine? Better yet, if you like the clam sauce you'll love our baked clams!" And, if more than a week went by without an order, Benny himself could call and see if we were OK. What an opportunity for up-selling, not to mention definitely sealing customer loyalty.
A bit far-fetched, perhaps, but that is exactly the promise of CRM and other customer-analytics-type of technology. Essentially, it's the opportunity to know so much about your customer that you can sell them (in a good and regulatorily-compliant way, of course) services and products that they may not have even known they needed. The difference is that it should be a lot more feasible for an insurance company to take advantage of this kind of technology than it is for a pizza parlor to do so. But insurers continue to meet (and create?) obstacles to achieving this kind of mutually beneficial customer interaction. It's enough to give you a good case of heartburn.
Katherine Burger is Editorial Director of Bank Systems & Technology and Insurance & Technology, members of UBM TechWeb's InformationWeek Financial Services. She assumed leadership of Bank Systems & Technology in 2003 and of Insurance & Technology in 1991. In addition to ... View Full Bio