How sick are you of hearing the cliché, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it"? Listening to that hackneyed expression is especially frustrating when your IT department has identified an inefficiency in your company. But co-workers may quickly dismiss your idea because, well, the computer ain't on fire.
Fortunately, IVANS, Inc. (Old Greenwich, CT), a provider of e-commerce and networking solutions to the insurance industry, doesn't wait for its technology to become dysfunctional before seeking improvement. After analyzing both the opinions of its customers and the operations of its in-house call center, IVANS adopted new CRM (customer relationship management) software. Nothing was broken exactly, but customer satisfaction rates did not meet the company's stated goal. The heart of the problem was the call center's separate, non-integrated Lotus Notes databases. Each database contained valuable information, but neither was a complete customer file.
CRM Provides Call Center With Complete Customer View
IVANS serves 475 insurance and healthcare organizations, 30,000 independent agents, and 14,000 healthcare providers in the United States and Canada. When those customers need technical support for their e-commerce and networking systems, they phone IVANS' customer support department. Because of the separate databases, questions weren't being answered as quickly as IVANS hoped.
"The technology wasn't outdated," explains Michael McCarty, the director of customer support for IVANS. "We simply didn't have a central repository for customer problem handling. We had to read through all of what was in the files to serve the customer."
In the first quarter of 2000, after extensively surveying its customers, IVANS established an initial goal of total customer satisfaction at 90%. They hoped providing accurate answers faster would improve the customer satisfaction rate, increase customer loyalty, and reduce customer turnover. Also, the company sought to proactively learn more about its customers and cultivate stronger relationships. "We felt that if we could achieve scores that are more often seen in the consumer environment, we'd really be accomplishing something," McCarty says.
To reach these goals, IVANS installed CRM software from Remedy (Mountain View, CA), a BMC Software (Houston) company. Remedy Customer Support includes features such as centralized customer information, intelligent routing and assignments, knowledge management capabilities, and automated notifications. Version 3 was installed initially; IVANS has since upgraded to Version 4.
The IVANS IT staff worked with Remedy to customize the software and "pseudo-integrate" it with the Lotus databases. "It's not true integration because both applications are used side-by-side," McCarty says. "We established a customer master file, and we sync that nightly with the Remedy system."
The most important customization was establishing IVANS' Customer Action Request System (CARS) for the call center. The tab-driven software contains updated product information and customer history, including data related to previous technical problems.
CRM Improves Call Center's Statistics
IVANS uses the workflow functionality to send automated surveys that help monitor customer satisfaction rates on an ongoing basis. The improvement was realized five consecutive quarters after the CRM system was implemented. IVANS' customer satisfaction rate rose from 84% to over 90% in each quarter. Immediate access to customer and product data is the key, McCarty says.
"Customers' perception of our technical knowledge and ability comes from using our database," he says. "For example, if a customer in New York City calls us and says their router has gone down, and we trace it to a New York node, you're going to have multiple customers in that area with the same problem. If you put that in the knowledge base, all our account managers can talk to their customers intelligently about it. Traffic will be rerouted through another city. You solve the problem and gain the customer's confidence."
The CRM software also helped IVANS improve first-call resolution from 65% to 90% in 18 months. As a result, customer downtime is reduced (which helps increase customer satisfaction), and call center employees can handle additional problem calls. IVANS now handles 50% more support calls and has not increased its staff.
Another efficiency was realized through a customer intranet. IVANS' customers can track the status of their support tickets (i.e. customer requests) through a password-protected Web site. Real-time information is available to the customer without the assistance of a call center employee. "If we reduce the number of calls into the center for statuses and updates, we gain efficiency," McCarty says. "Also, customers now have access to updates 24/7, 365 days a year. If it's Sunday afternoon and an IT director wants to see a status report, it can be accessed immediately."
IVANS has also taken advantage of the CRM software's reporting capabilities. Before the installation, managers would regularly rebuild reports. Now, a reporting template is built once and is populated by the manager any time. "The most complicated template took two hours to build," McCarty says. "Now it takes seconds to run it. You just find a report format in the templates and double-click on it." Some of the reports IVANS runs focus on billing problems, lease line orders, and general open orders.
IVANS' future plans for the CRM system include the implementation of a centralized order management system. And, of course, they plan to continue to adhere to their philosophy of using technology to improve company operations, not just fix what's broken.