ABOUT THE VENDOR
Apropos Technology was founded in 1993 with the goal of developing the first network-based, client/server contact center solution. Today, Apropos develops and markets a real-time, multi-channel interaction management application for managing customer interactions across a variety of communications media, including e-mail, Web, and voice. Apropos Technology is headquartered in Oakbrook Terrace, IL, and has more than 285 clients worldwide.
ABOUT THE CUSTOMER
MetLife Investors Group, an affiliate of MetLife, America's largest life insurer, develops and distributes variable and fixed annuities for non-proprietary intermediary channels and their clients. MetLife Investors offers a full line of financial products, state-of-the-art technology capabilities, and high-touch service. The company is comprised of two insurance groups, as well as an investment management entity, Met Investors Advisory Corporation and MetLife Investors Distribution Company.
ABOUT THE TECHNOLOGY
Whether it's a phone call, e-mail, Web, or fax interaction, Apropos provides information about who initiates contact, the reason why they're contacting the business, and what the current status, resolution, and pending tasks are. The system also enables customers to choose self-help options. If the customer chooses to communicate with a live agent, Apropos can route interactions to skilled agents
ABOUT THE PROJECT
In addition to seeking a contact center solution that supported multi-channel forms of communication, MetLife Investors needed a comprehensive solution to support its two customer service centers, encompassing its sales and administrative departments located in Newport Beach, Calif. and Des Moines, Iowa. The two centers support 250 agents, more than 150,000 financial brokers and millions of consumers who contact MetLife Investors to obtain account information via voice, email and Web interactions.
MetLife Investors was seeking a fully integrated solution that would inform agents about the interactions waiting to be handled, identify callers, and provide skills-based routing and intelligent routing with alerts based on business parameters. SearchCRM spoke with Ken Jaffe, executive VP of technology, about the project.
SearchCRM: How is Apropos a part of your CRM system?
Jaffe: We have a CRM solution that we developed in-house. With Apropos, what we're really looking at is the CTI (Computer Telephony Integration) aspect that they bring to our overall CRM solution. Apropos is any point of contact we have from a customer to our call center. We wanted all those touchpoints to come into a universal inbox.
SearchCRM: How did you choose Apropos?
Jaffe: I had evaluated Apropos with another insurance company, Equitable. I left there two years ago and came to Metlife. So here, we already knew they were the best and went with them straight from day one. But back at Equitable, we looked at other solutions. We found that the process with Apropos was more seamless in terms of the integration. We also thought it was more cost-effective.
SearchCRM: What were you looking for in a vendor?
Jaffe: They had to be affordable, which took some players out of the equation. They had to have that universal inbox so we could bring everything together. They had to work with the Lucent switch that we had -- so we had some infrastructure constraints. And then, they really had to be a company that we wanted to grow with. Both at Equitable and here at MetLife, we were start-up companies within the broader company. We started from the ground up, and we needed something that would scale with us.
SearchCRM: How did the implementation go?
Jaffe: It went very smoothly. But then again, we had a track record of doing it, so it was much easier the second time. We knew what to look for, and the technology platform had improved since then.
SearchCRM: Can you give me an overview of the solution?
Jaffe: We have a Web-based CRM solution here where we have all of our contacts, pending and active. We're an insurance company that distributes our products through independent financial intermediaries like Merrill Lynch and Edward Jones and H. E. Edwards. So these reps are calling us. What we have found is that it allows us to have the ability to figure out who the callers are in our world -- what office they're calling from, if they've called before, if they do a lot of sales ... We then take that and screen pop our CRM solution based on what it's found -- who talks to them usually, who's responsible for their account -- so it goes to the right phone. It also allows us to prioritize calls in a queue.
Once that's done, it allows us to extend that same concept to embrace things like chat, e-mail, callback, and so on. So all we did is we took the same concept with the phone calls and added to them different ways to have people communicate with us.
SearchCRM: How does the solution help you better serve your customers?
Jaffe: It hopefully gives them a better experience with us -- for example, if they call in and they always get the person on the first ring that they're used to talking to, versus someone who has to transfer them, they have a much better experience. The call reporting allows us to manage our growth -- we can see if our trunks are getting busier so we can be preemptive about whether we need to add for growth. We just want to make sure that when people call us, everything is easier and faster.
SearchCRM: When do you expect to see ROI?
Jaffe: ROI is always tricky, because it's always a cost; it doesn't make us sales per se. We can't attribute any distinct revenue to it. But if you look at it as a cost avoidance sort of ROI -- where you pay a certain amount to have less costs associated with, say, doing it with another company, I'd say we probably reached our ROI in the first nine months to a year.
SearchCRM: What are your future plans?
Jaffe: We plan to look at some of Apropos's new products in terms of knowledge management. That would allow us, when people call in, to have standard answers we give to questions and so on.
SearchCRM: What advice would you give to companies that are thinking of starting a similar project?
Jaffe: It behooves them to look at what you get in terms of the universal inbox over everything else. Most people look at best of breed for each piece: Who's going to give me the best chat? Who's going to give me the best e-mail response? There are lots of vendors in each one, but we've come up with a real win -- the fact that everything shows up in one spot. You could look at each one, but it would mean that they [the call center reps] would have to have their chat screen open, and their e-mail open, and so on. You lose space more than anything on your desktop. It's easiest to go with one vendor.
Linda Formichelli's writing has appeared 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 May 2002