E-business services firm Connextions.net had already been providing phone-based customer service capabilities to Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida when the healthcare insurance provider undertook a new initiative. It decided to provide direct sales via the Web. Connextions.net's assignment: Create a Web solution for self-service sales on the Internet and bundle it with a very high-end customer service solution.
"To purchase healthcare insurance, even in person, is not an easy experience," said Peter Kasabov, president of Orlando, Fla.-based Connextions.net. "It's probably the most complicated product that you can buy online."
BCBS had been relying on a large telesales force to sell policies over the phone. When purchasing healthcare insurance, a customer would typically call into the contact center to get product information from a sales rep. The sales rep would take the customer's application information over the phone and manually enter it onto the form; the form would then be mailed to the customer for review and signature and then be mailed back to BCBS. This was obviously a very lengthy and cumbersome process.
Connextions.net looked at several vendors that offered online chat or e-mail tools. According to Kasabov, software from San Jose, Calif- based Aspect Communications was the only one found at the time that integrated e-mail, chat and call routing in a single management platform. Connextions.net went with Aspect Customer Access Portal (now
A more difficult challenge was the task of recruiting and training the service reps. The reps not only needed to be adept at communicating with customers via chat, e-mail and on the phone, they also needed to be licensed insurance agents. "Initially we started with licensed agents and trained them in the chat, e-mail and phone mediums," said Kasabov. "But we discovered that it's actually easier to find customer service-focused reps that are computer savvy and send them to get their license to become an insurance agent."
Now, on the BCBS Web site, customers can use the self-service apps to request information, receive quotes and apply for the healthcare insurance products. If a customer needs assistance, customer service reps can actually fill out the forms for them on the Web while the customers watch. "The customer sees exactly what the rep is typing, they can interject at any time, and the customer is the only person who can click the 'submit' button after they feel comfortable with what our reps are doing, " said Kasabov.
Connextions is currently waiting for approval from the Florida Department of Insurance for electronic signature and electronic payment online capabilities to make the Web offering for BCBS a complete online experience.
Kasabov said it took six months to implement the project, including the design, integration of tools, and the recruiting and training of the reps. BCBS has been live with the new system for a year and has already seen significant ROI.
"We were not sure how customers would receive the self-service sales app, or how successful the licensed insurance agents would be at providing customer service and support and sales on the Web," Kasabov said. Yet, the first policy was sold only two days after the system went live and, Kasabov says, Web sales is one of the most profitable sales channels right now for the company.
"The ROI covers so far the development cost, implementation cost and the ongoing cost of maintaining the solution," said Kasabov. "It exceeded everyone's expectations, including even ours."
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