ABOUT THE VENDOR
Founded in 1989, Point Information Systems is a global provider of e-CRM solutions. Deployed in 19 languages in 36 countries, Point's products are used by mid-to-large sized organizations and multinational companies, including Allianz Group, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Deutsche Bank, MetLife, Verizon Communications, and many others worldwide. Point has offices in Europe, North America, and the Asia Pacific Region.
ABOUT THE CLIENT
Allianz Life and its subsidiaries form a large company operating throughout the United States. Represented by more than 100,000 independent agents, registered representatives, and financial planners, Allianz offers an extensive array of financial services, life insurance and long-term care insurance protection, and value-added fixed and variable annuities and investment products.
ABOUT THE TECHNOLOGY
Point Information Systems' e-point 5 e-CRM solution enables companies and their partners to interact with customers and prospects throughout the customer lifecycle, through any assisted or unassisted channel, and via any interaction media. e-point's product components are focused around all main interaction channels, including the contact center, direct sales, partners, and self-service over the Web. All components sit on top of a central CRM Hub, built around Point's multi-client, n-tier architecture. In addition, e-point provides dedicated consoles
When Allianz decided to bring the sales and marketing of their products in-house, they needed to build a CRM solution from scratch. SearchCRM spoke with Shawn Spott, Allianz's manager of business services, about the project.
SearchCRM: Why did your company decide to evaluate CRM solutions?
Spott: U.S. Allianz used to be just a product manufacturer. We created variable annuities and used Franklin Templeton as our sales network; they took our annuities, put their name on them, and sold them to broker/dealers. Two years ago we decided we were going to take over the sales and marketing of our own product. One of the things we needed to do was to establish our own customer database. That's what drove us to go out and get a CRM solution.
SearchCRM: How did the evaluation process go?
Spott: We did an accelerated RFP process in July of 1999. We started with a very short list of vendors and gave them a short time to get back to us. Then we brought all of them in to do demos of their systems. We told them that because we were on such a tight timeline, we weren't looking for a PowerPoint presentation of how wonderful their solution is--we really wanted a hands-on technical demo where we could play with copies of the software.
SearchCRM: What were you looking for in a CRM vendor?
Spott: The number one criterion was that we needed a mobile solution. We needed to be able to support a sales force that was disconnected every day, so they'd have to do some sort of daily synchronization. We weren't able to go with a traditional Web solution where they can log in and do their work.
The second criterion was that the system had to be customizable. We knew that initially we were going to do typical CRM stuff -- name, address, Rolodex-type information. But we really were looking at how we were going to use this system with all the other systems in our organization. Up front, the number-one system we wanted to integrate with was our data warehouse.
The third criterion was that we needed to be able to control our own destiny. Whatever solution we picked, we did not want a long-term consulting relationship. We wanted to be able to manage, maintain, and manipulate the system internally.
SearchCRM: Were there any problems stemming from your tight timeline?
Spott: There were a lot of challenges. Since we had never had CRM technology, we had no expertise in-house. So we didn't know who we should have at the table when we were deciding how screens were going to look, how data should flow, and so on. We had all the technical expertise, but we didn't have a lot of business experience. We were hiring those people while we were going through the process, but everyone we were hiring with business expertise had a laundry list of other issues they needed to address.
The other thing we did that hurt us initially is that we tried to do too much too quickly. Although we actually succeeded, I think we probably would have better served to have done smaller iterations of functionality to be rolled out over the first six months.
SearchCRM: So how did you deal with this?
Spott: Even though we bit off more than we should have, we had a very successful implementation. I think the reason was that very early on, the senior management team decided that the only way this would work was if we formed a SWAT team of people who were responsible for it. We had one primary business representative -- that was me -- one primary ITS representative, and one DBA representative. Those people had the authority to call on other resources as needed, but they didn't have to go through the traditional chain of command to get everyone to help. This allowed us to move very quickly.
SearchCRM: How quickly did you get the project up and running?
Spott: I was first asked to pursue this project in July of 1999, and we went live in the middle of November. So we did it in four months, which is pretty amazing.
SearchCRM: What were the challenges of the implementation?
Spott: It went extremely well except for the mobile part of the implementation. A lot of problems had to do with a lack of training, which speaks to our inexperience. We weren't sure how to do a mobile implementation and what the pitfalls would be and what the best approach would be?so subsequently we had trouble training our people in the field.
SearchCRM: Did you experience any internal resistance?
Spott: We didn't do a very good job of building consensus among the mobile users about what role the CRM was going to play in their daily business. It was initially a case of us telling them, "This is really important, but we can't tell you why." As a salesperson, there's already a lot of pressure on you -- but when you're told that you have to do data entry and this new thing called synchronizing every day, and no one can tell you why -- it's hard to get excited about doing it.
Subsequent to that, we were able to change our approach and say, "Here's the value that's being added." We gave them some tangible benefits to using the CRM. That has turned the tide with the field.
SearchCRM: How do you use the CRM solution in your day-to-day operations?
Spott: Every day we send all of the daily numbers to the sales people so the mobile user can actually see who has done any sales the previous day. So the first thing they can do is call those people who dropped tickets the previous day, thank them, and ask them if there are any additional services they need. In addition to that, we do a lot of data mining in the home office. We then push the leads out to the desktop, so the mobile users can see who are the hot prospects that they should be calling.
The other thing we use it for is something called Workshops. Potential customers can go to a half-day seminar on, say, planning for retirement, and brokers can get continuing education credits for attending. All the information on the attendees is sent to the mobile laptops. So if I'm a sales rep in the field, I can see on my laptop that there's a workshop next week in my city, and here are the people who are going to attend and what their production is.
We also use the CRM system for all inbound and outbound calls. We do on average 30 marketing campaigns per week. For example, if we want one of our CSRs to call everybody in the Dallas area and let them know about a commission special, we use the CRM to immediately identify that group and put a whole list of activities into that CSR's work load.
Linda Formichelli's writing appeared this year in Woman's Day, Wired, Writer's Digest, Family Circle, Psychology Today. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or check out her Web site http://www.twowriters.net
This was first published in September 2001