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October 19, 2017

Roadblocks to Good Customer Relations

Summary:

A good customer relationship management (CRM) system makes it possible to “keep it personal” while providing superior service.

Photo Courtesy of Pexels

For many small to medium-sized insurance carriers, government risk pools and captives, providing personalized customer service continues to be a priority. If your organization or your partners leverage digital technologies, you may have customers who expect that personal touch across channels.

For these carriers, having a solid client relationship management (CRM) strategy is a priority. And while in theory a strategy is a great start, execution on that strategy often hits a couple of roadblocks, especially when it comes to finding the right technology to organize and standardize records related to better management of customer service, marketing and sales. After all, customer data is a lifeline to success for any business, but not having all of your customer data in one easily accessible place is usually a challenge faced by insurers that are on a growth path.

See also: Yes, Personalize — but Get it Right!  

This is complicated when insurers’ functional business units operate in silo fashion. For example, consider this workflow scenario: If underwriting can’t access a policyholder’s payment history or other financial records held in accounting, underwriting must email the accounting department to obtain it. Meanwhile, the customer, impatient for his quote, calls the carrier and is connected to a customer service representative who should be able to view all customer transactions, interactions, renewals, cancellations and other changes being made to the policyholder record, yet is unable to view data that reflects any issues that would affect the underwriter’s delays.

Another roadblock relates to a common complaint among small to medium-sized insurers with limited or frozen budgets—the feeling by employees (users) of having to “do more with less.” Here we have a difficult and potentially negative cycle: If the insurer is operating with outdated technologies and processes and its spreadsheets and email platforms are overwhelmed by a growing customer database, the employee is unable to meet the customer’s needs and, over time, experiences burnout. The customer, meanwhile, is already shopping for another insurance carrier.

For companies responding to these challenges by moving beyond a customer service excellence strategy and on to actual execution of a solution, an integrated CRM system is the next logical step.

This type of technology puts the company in control—and requires rethinking of existing processes and creating process efficiencies. The inclusion of collaboration tools in the CRM help make this task possible, and creates a “team” effect even with the smallest of customer service departments.

By their nature, CRM systems are rules-based, so customer data and records can be made available to the employee who needs it, when they need it. For example, consider the importance of receiving an automated alert of policyholder suspension, which triggers an audit trail, or the ability to build out custom fields to include additional categories, contact types based on demographics, channel partner status and more.

The CRM should automate contacts, quotes, sales, tasks, calendar scheduling and more. But remember, this data automation doesn’t take place in a vacuum; it needs to be insurer-driven and should map to the policyholder’s unique requirements. It also should map to the distribution channel’s requirements, yet another source of critical customer data and the key to a better understanding of the policyholder’s existing status and changing needs.

See also: Distribution: About To Get Personal  

Let’s face it, digital technologies are with us to stay and can provide a powerful means to interact with a growing customer base. For small to mid-sized insurers on a budget, an integrated CRM system—once only an expensive pipe dream—today can be a reality. As your company grows and you have more policyholders than you can relate to personally, a CRM system makes it possible to “keep it personal” while providing superior customer service.

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About the Author

Jim Leftwich has more than 30 years of leadership experience in risk management and insurance. In 2010, he founded CHSI Technologies, which offers SaaS enterprise management software for small insurance operations and government risk pools.

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