Magazine Article | October 1, 2001

Lobbying For Improved CRM

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

Customized call center software helps a political action organization's agents manage 600,000 customer relationships.

Integrated Solutions, October 2001

Call center agents for the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) (Nashville, TN) must be effective at enrolling new members and renewing memberships. After all, given NFIB's stature as the nation's largest advocacy group for small and independent businesses, it would be ironic if they weren't. By definition, a political lobbying organization's purpose is to be persuasive. For NFIB, those powers of persuasion must extend to the 80 call center agents who work to maintain NFIB's 600,000-member base. Key to their efforts is a CRM (customer relationship management) software suite that helps agents to address members' specific responses and needs.

Revising Call Scripts With New Data
Three years ago, when NFIB planned Y2K-driven IT changes, upgrading its call center system was at the top of the list. Agents had been working on dumb terminals with a proprietary operating system that provided only rudimentary data file levels. Consequently, agents weren't able to manipulate or supplement the limited member information presented to them. To improve its agents' ability to promote NFIB's successes and react more aggressively to members' concerns, NFIB needed to give agents access to a larger database of information. NFIB decided to upgrade to a PC-based, client/server environment with a relational database behind it.

For its call center software, NFIB chose the e-point suite from Point Information Systems, Inc. (Wellesley, MA), which includes tools specifically designed for call centers. The e-point suite allows NFIB to customize the interface and fields so that agents can adapt their scripts depending on how calls unfold. "Our call center procedures were firmly in place, so the product had to work with those procedures," said Pat Jansen, software development director for NFIB. "Some data fields that we wanted our reps to see are not inherent to the Point system. Using the tools that Point provides, we made the basic information display larger and put more member data on there. Now, the software in our call center doesn't look anything like the Point vanilla version out of the box. Other products we looked at were too rigid and wouldn't have accommodated the customization we needed to do."

Making Sure Agents Have The Last Word
Using the new system, agents can access the past two years of member history, including payments, subscription renewals, responses to surveys, and contributions to political action committees. Agents can weave into their generic sales scripts updated information about recent NFIB victories in the member's state or about pending state or federal legislation that could affect the member's business practices. The system also provides agents with rebuttal screens for countering the concerns of members reluctant to renew. For example, a member whose business is farming may argue that NFIB hasn't done enough to help family farms. In generating a response, the agent could pull up information about NFIB's lobbying efforts in defense of the independent farmer.

By creating profiles of individual members, the system helps agents to demonstrate that NFIB understands and can target issues members care about. "Although the Point system was implemented to manage the sales function for renewals, it has evolved into a true CRM solution," Jansen said. "It enables us to show members that we really know them and that we're not just calling about money."

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