Keeping in touch with more than 33,000 customers is no small feat. And because Standard Insurance Co.'s (Portland, OR, $6.8 billion in assets) 400 field sales and services employees spend a great deal of time traveling, Standard decided to turn down-time into up-time.
"We are in touch with our employer customers constantly, particularly in the field sales and services offices," says Doug Maines, senior vice president of employee benefits. "From a productivity standpoint, when you have people traveling quite a bit it just makes sense that they make use of what would otherwise be downtime in their car or on a train."
So when wireless mobile office provider eTrieve (Hillsboro, OR) approached Standard in the summer of 2000, according to Maines, it made sense. "We've really become dependent upon email as a way to communicate throughout the organization," says Maines. "So the link of email to wireless is very logical and helpful for us."
Customer Tailored Approach
Maines, along with Eric Parsons, Standard's chief financial officer, made the decision to license eTrieve's product. "We did a fairly quick scan of the market for other available products," says Maines, who helped investigate other email retrieval products. "We thought that eTrieve had done enough research about our company to understand what our needs were. ETrieve was open to working with us." In fact, eTrieve offered a more "customer-tailored product," as opposed to other vendors that offered a "here-is-our-service, are-you-interested product," Maines adds.
Six members of senior management participated in the pilot, which began in the third quarter of 2000 and lasted for four months, Maines reports. etrieve's mobile email retrieval system allows users to access and send office email through their existing cell phones. Initially, pilot users were set up with a "buddy" who needed to be logged on to email; the buddy's computer would act as a server. "If I were on the road, my buddy would have to have her email up and running in order for me to access my email remotely," explains Maines. "That was an early obstacle that occurred within the first couple of months."
Within 30 days of the realization that the buddy system needed changing, eTrieve improved the solution. eTrieve's software was loaded onto one of Standard's existing servers that runs alongside the corporate email server. After the change was made, Standard opened the emailretrieval option to the remainder of the company in early spring of this year.
Today, 220 members of Standard's field sales and services offices use eTrieve. "The savings are more qualitative than quantitative," explains Maines. "I see that we are able to respond much more quickly to requests for proposals, questions that customers might have, quotes and servicing issues. If an employee commutes and is in transit 20 percent of the time, we are making them 20 percent more productive than they were before."
Maines also believes that eTrieve's product enables Standard to be a more competitive insurer. "We are a company that competes with a number of companies," says Maines. "We've staked out service as our differentiator."
Like Wild Fire
Looking back on the implementation of the system, "we started out a little slower than expected with the problems with the buddy system," says Maines. "Once we got through that and opened up the option to more of our employees, it caught on very quickly. Even people with fairly long commutes are using eTrieve. The system is going above and beyond what we expected."
Maines planned to have met with the entire sales staff last month in order to collect feedback as to how the eTrieve system is working. He will also investigate what added features might enhance eTrieve. "There are a number of enhancements that eTrieve is working on," explains Maines. "We are picking up the new things as they come along and then thinking through where the changes will make sense for other members of the company."
Case Study Closeup
The Standard Insurance Co., Portland, OR, $6.8 billion in assets.
LINES OF BUSINESS
Employee benefits, group life, short- and long-term disability, dental, annuities, 401(k).
eTrieve's (Hillsboro, OR) email retrieval system.
Allocate field employees' time more efficiently.