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Although the majority of insurers have already invested in a customer relationship management (CRM) system, I contend that few are deriving the value they had hoped for. Unfortunately, few are experiencing benefit beyond providing the field sales and marketing teams a great digital version of a Rolodex. Yet, whether an insurer’s CRM system is Salesforce (estimated to be used by almost 80 percent of carriers globally), Microsoft Dynamics, Sugar CRM, or one of the lesser-known platforms, the technology is capable of so much more.
Most insurers deploy CRM systems as horizontal, stand-alone systems rather than integrated, insurance-specific solutions. They use CRM to track interactions with agencies, including agent contacts, appointments, reports, and activities. Although these are important objectives, stopping at this phase does not deliver insurers any new insight into customer or agency relationships,
With most insurers now focused on customer engagement and creating an omni-channel customer view, it’s time to start putting their CRM investment to better use to make that long desired 360-degree customer view a reality.
Just consider what the operation would look like and how well it could support the customer if everyone in the end-to-end insurance process had a complete and common view of the policyholder through CRM—not just sales and marketing, but underwriters, call centers, service centers, claims, billing, and management. CRM systems like Salesforce are capable of delivering these end-to-end capabilities. What’s keeping insurers from deploying their CRM in this broader enterprise capacity is that CRM systems by their nature are horizontal and not insurance-specific, and that’s where the challenge for insurers begins.
Making Your CRM Insurance-Ready
CRM systems in their initial state should be viewed as a platform or foundation on which insurers can build capabilities customized for insurance. But mention ‘build’ to insurers and we’re back to an age old build-versus-buy debate.
Setting the build/buy discussion aside for a moment, regardless of who does the work, there are two key elements needed to make CRM insurance-ready. First, insurance processes need to be incorporated into the CRM system. Second, the necessary data needs to be available either through integration with core systems or through extraction and loading into the system. Just like a carrier’s claims, policy, or billing systems, a CRM system needs to be seen as a core insurance system with the same need for insurance processes and data.
It’s also important to note that making CRM insurance-ready can be an iterative development. All the desired insurance processes don’t need to be on the system from day one. A CRM deployment could start with consolidated reporting from multiple back-end systems, then adding, insightful marketing, agency recruitment, appointment, licensing and compliance-related tracking, analytics, commissions, and other important functions over time.
Making data accessible to the CRM system can be handled the same way. Insurers can start with consolidating back-end system policy data for marketing purposes, then add claims, billing and commission data.
Build or Buy?
Insurers need to decide whether to build or buy in order to refine, expand, and otherwise make their CRM system an insurance core system that is enterprise-ready. In considering the build approach, insurers need to assess whether they truly have the in-house expertise to modify and enhance the CRM platform and whether they can make the initiative an IT priority. Often, lack of expertise or resources are in fact primary issues holding back insurers from gaining the true benefits of their CRM investment.
Fortunately, software developers have built on common CRM platforms to create a large arsenal of available horizontal and vertical CRM add-on solutions. While not all are insurance-specific, the numbers that are continue to grow—especially for Salesforce, since its market share in insurance translates to tremendous opportunity for software companies building these extended offerings. These CRM add-on applications are automatically pre-integrated with one another, simplifying CRM integration to an insurer’s email, phone, and other systems.
Solution providers have already done much of the heavy lifting in building insurance processes into CRM as well, building insurance data models within the CRM system and creating tools that allow insurers to configure and customize systems. As a result, they offer solutions that are robust and easy to deploy, insurance-ready, yet still customizable. If an insurer already has a Salesforce license, it can simply deploy the insurance-specific add-ons, then do additional customization for its own unique business processes.
Incorporating insurance processes and integrating data within a CRM system are essential to realizing the promise of customer relationship management in the insurance industry. Although insurers can choose to build or buy to accomplish these tasks, the growing number of insurance-specific CRM systems and add-ons deliver insurers solutions that are easier to deploy, generate faster time-to-value, and allow companies to finally achieve their 360-degree customer relationship objectives.