The right information at the right time

ERGO Direkt Versicherungen implemented a new tool to manage customer relationships based on BSI CRM software. The Contact Center, Sales and Back-Office profit from a panoramic view of the customer dossier – in a unified interface with comprehensive process support. A conversation with Peter Goller, Overall Project Head at ERGO Direkt Versicherungen.

Mr. Goller, at ERGO Direkt you completely replaced the existing contact center software and CRM with a new solution from BSI. Why take such a radical step?

Overall Project Head at ERGO Direkt Versicherungen

Peter Goller: As a direct insurer, one of our core competencies is direct marketing, especially on the Internet. We seek to focus on our customers’ needs. This means that employees who have customer contact must have the right information at the right time. Since our call center system was already becoming difficult to maintain and we were using different system interfaces with different information, this step was unavoidable. One important goal was to create a uniform interface for all employees who have contact with our customers. 

[Translate to Englisch:] Welche Kriterien waren Ihnen bei der Software wichtig und warum haben Sie sich für den "kleinen" Schweizer Anbieter BSI und keinen der Grossen entschieden?

What criteria were important to you with the software and why did you choose a “small” Swiss supplier, BSI, instead of one of the bigger players?

We took plenty of time for the selection process. This entailed having all concerned departments document our requirements in a specification and then sending it to various CRM manufacturers. The system had to be flexibly adjustable to meet our needs and deliver a large set of standard functionalities. And, of course, the price-performance ratio had to be right.

Visits to the manufacturers’ reference customer were important for our subsequent decision. To make the differing manufacturer’s offers comparable for the decision-making process, quantitative and qualitative criteria were defined and weighted. The process is similar to buying a car. Not only are the measurable facts, such as purchase price or petrol consumption important, but soft factors, like flexibility in the contract design, were at least equally important to us.

The decisive arguments for BSI CRM were the correspondence of our requirements with what it offers, the good price-performance ratio and the manufacturer’s comprehension of our needs. BSI shot a bull’s eye with its system’s flexibility towards our adaptations and with the consistent SOA architecture. In retrospect, I can say that BSI was already the favorite after the first presentation. And the great project result that we achieved together shows that we did everything right. 

Those are certainly praiseworthy words, but no IT project happens without challenges. What stumbling blocks did ERGO Direkt have to overcome?

There is a great deal of know-how at ERGO Direct, but it is spread among the heads of a wide variety of people. We had to tap into this knowledge, understand it and then let it flow into the software; for example, knowledge about rates and their features and how various contract components fit together, as well as legal conditions. Through close cooperation between the two teams in charge – ERGO Direkt and BSI – and through the iterative procedure using prototyping, we managed to master these difficulties very well.

Added to this is the fact that an application only works well when users want to work with it. People can only be convinced about new things when they can see an advantage to them. We attained acceptance and conviction by involving the users very early on in the concept phase. The development progress and the benefits for the user were openly communicated to the user the entire time. The current state of the system could also be “played with” at any time. During the test phase, a large group of future end-users were involved, primarily to support the tests. It was precisely these people who later became our multipliers in the departments. When it came to live operation, these employees were already familiar with the system down to the last detail and were able to share this know-how with their colleagues and office neighbors.

Particularly for insurance companies, there are many contracts and guidelines to consider. In other words: The processes are very complex. How did you compress all this into a single application?

The complexity truly was a challenge. We connected a total of 36 systems. There are around 150 different rates, each with corresponding offer and contract masks, each of which, in turn, have varying features, such as rate calculators. Everything is now depicted in a uniform interface. This required many interfaces and a great deal of integration work. It is difficult to say how we managed it. I would say you have to put together all the information while retaining an overview. You have to know how the information fits together and what it all means. Information often has a different technical meaning as it does in practice. Most of all, this requires good developers.

Can you name some key data relating to your new CRM?

Our new CRM is used daily by 1,500 employees to process the concerns of our 4.4 million customers efficiently and as case conclusively as possible. All the functionalities needed to do so were integrated into the new system. This means that switching between different systems is no longer necessary. We can currently offer, manage and control over 30 processes using the new system interface. We have now created a uniform base, starting with process selection to completed handling of the customer’s concerns.

Not bad – and what’s next? Are further project steps planned?

With this project we have replaced our former call center system and thereby also created a uniform interface for all employees involved in customer contact. Every employee now has identical information about the customer available to them and need not look for it in a variety of systems.

Important issues, such as the integration of our campaign management procedures or the interplay with our Internet presence are still pending. Our customers can contact us through chat and also through Skype. We would like to integrate these new contact channels just as successfully in our internal processes. Also, when it comes to social media such as Facebook, we want to sensibly use it in an adapted form. Our aim is to target all business processes to the needs of our customers. 

By the way: The topic of social media is on everyone’s lips at the moment. How do you see social media being utilized by insurance companies?

The integration of social media is now a standard requirement in tender offers. However, for most companies, it is not entirely clear where and how they want to or should use social media. For insurance companies, I see chat as an important tool for the first contact with interested parties; for example if they seek initial price information. Twitter is a good channel to gather consumer opinions, to react or to derive ideas from them. Twitter is also often used to disseminate new products and information – in other words, as a new advertising channel. This, by the way, often requires completely new organizational forms inside the company. The team that looks after Twitter must be able to quickly and easily talk with management. It must be possible to make a decision fast if something "happens".

Contact possibilities through social media will be among the standard channels in the future. Nevertheless, it shouldn't be forgotten that insurance companies still conduct the majority of their communications over the phone. Consumers will decide where the path leads and how quickly.