Article

IBSi shapes its business model around CRM tool

Patricia Vio, Assistant Editor

Most organizations look to CRM as a way to increase profits, retain customers or streamline business processes. IBSi took a different approach: it created a new business model based on a CRM tool.

Lancaster, Pa.-based IBSi LLC started out as the sales department of group insurance carrier Educators Mutual Life, and has grown into a marketing company that provides products, services and sales support to independent insurance brokers. The cornerstone of these offerings is the Broker Solutions Network, or BSN. BSN is a Web-based system powered by YOUcentric technology that provides online CRM, marketing support, proposal fulfillment, new business tracking, product information and educational support on a real-time, 24x7 basis.

The staff at IBSi was looking for Web-based CRM software that could be rapidly deployed and customized. "We also needed something that could handle the complicated CRM data model in the employee benefits market space," said Frank Ammerman, VP of business systems at IBSi. Independent insurance agents broker employee benefits products that come from multiple supply channels, and these products are distributed to employers, or sometimes even to individual employees.

"We needed a system with a strong data model and enough customizability to let us structure that complicated cascade of relationships," said Ammerman.

A measure of self-determination

Ammerman said YOUcentric was chosen because it met all

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of IBSi's criteria and had a strong CRM track record. A joint project team of Charlotte, N.C.-based YOUcentric and IBSi staff ran requirements analyses and developed the system. Now, although they have technical support from YOUcentric, IBSi is able to perform any necessary enhancements and modifications themselves.

Today, more than 300 independent insurance brokers have full access to BSN, and more than 10,000 interact with the system in some capacity. IBSi has a dedicated support group that provides help via phone or e-mail and which runs on-site training programs for the brokers. Online help is also available.

Although it has only been running the YOUcentric technology since January 2000, IBSi said it has already achieved ROI. "We realized an ROI benefit by increasing the effectiveness of the field force," said Ammerman. "It enabled us to grow without adding more staff." Ammerman estimates an expense increase of 50-75% for a two- to three-fold increase in the volume of quotes as well.

For those looking for advice on CRM implementation, Ammerman recommended breaking the project down into phases, having realistic expectations and devoting twice as many resources to non-programming issues -- such as training, business process analysis and post-implementation support -- than to technical issues.

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