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PAR3's Intelligent Response Platform is an XML-based solution that uses existing customer data to turn virtually any customer device into a highly personalized interactivity springboard. Outsourcing Solutions, Inc (OSI), was looking for a way to reach more consumers per unit of time or money without sacrificing customer service -- so they turned to PAR3 for help. SearchCRM.com spoke with OSI's executive VP Mike Staed about the project, who told us that the PAR3 program is three times as effective as his company's previous methods.
ABOUT THE VENDOR
Seattle-based PAR3 Communications, Inc. offers an event-based notification solution. PAR3's platform enables businesses and their customers to participate in an active relationship through highly personalized, interactive notification messages. Businesses such as Capital One, Progressive Insurance, Cox Communications, Northwest Airlines, Puget Sound Energy, and Quicken Loans use PAR3's technology to contact their customers with information via telephone, e-mail, pager, fax, or other wireless device.
ABOUT THE CLIENT
Outsourcing Solutions Inc. is a Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) firm providing receivables management services, which link a company's cash flow objectives with credit management policies from beginning to end of the Credit-to-Cash cycle. OSI works with credit grantors in industries including bankcard, commercial (B-to-B), education, financial services, government, healthcare, telecom, and utilities. OSI provides services to a blue chip roster of Fortune 500 clients. Headquartered in St. Louis, OSI has more than 9,000 employees in nearly 70 locations across 25 states plus Canada, Mexico, and Puerto Rico.
ABOUT THE TECHNOLOGY
PAR3 enables companies to send their customers proactive, personalized, response-enabled alerts via the medium the customer prefers -- landline or wireless phone, PDA, fax, or email. Alerts are also actionable -- customers can connect to a live voice at a customer support center, purchase a product/service, or forward on information to a friend, spouse, or assistant. The Intelligent Response Platform integrates tightly with existing CRM and CTI solutions.
SearchCRM.com: What were you looking for in a CRM vendor or solution?
Staed: I'd say there are three things that were critical to us. Number one, was this a sound technical solution as opposed to being in beta test? The second thing was support. Does the supplier have a team that's available when we need them and how we need them? The third criteria was, does the supplier have additional services that may be outside the scope of what we're trying to accomplish today, but that would be consistent with our broader and longer-term business needs?
SearchCRM.com: How many vendors did you look at, and how did you end up choosing PAR3?
Staed: Probably five. We chose PAR3 for a couple of reasons. One, they wouldn't leave us alone. That's always a good sign. One of the big plusses with PAR3 is, I think their marketing team is not just selling stuff to people. They learned a good bit about our business and continued to kind of test us relative to ways that we could utilize their services.
We're not that big a company, but a lot of our operational decisions in the past have been pretty decentralized, and that was a challenge for them that they've met. But really, what they did was take the time to learn about our business and begin to show us how we could use their service -- rather than backing up the truck and unloading some software or server and saying good luck. It's been highly collaborative.
SearchCRM.com: What was the most challenging aspect of the technology evaluation?
Staed: Getting apples to apples comparisons. Trying to determine amongst the vendors what's really the core capability. Part of that is the pricing ... how do you get an apples to apples comparison and determine what's the economic impact and what's the business case for the various offerings?
We took a basic spec and then we did a lot of homework to see what parts [of the solutions] applied to our problem and what was the cost of those parts.
SearchCRM.com: How did the implementation go?
Staed: This is an ongoing process, but I would give very high marks to the initial implementation. We were prepared and clearly PAR3 was prepared in terms of understanding the application, what needed to be done, and what some of the drawbacks or hurdles might be.
The biggest challenge for us was pinning people down to do a real live pilot and evaluation. We have an organization at our headquarters called Corporate Development, and their task is to evaluate best practices in the marketplaces, and then help the field implement. But our operations in the field often have other priorities, so the real challenge was getting our field people who will actually benefit from the PAR3 technology to set aside time to benchmark and pilot and then put it into full operation.
SearchCRM.com: Did you experience any internal resistance?
Staed: Absolutely. I'd categorize the resistance in two buckets. One was what I would call the inevitable, "It was not invented here, so how can it be any good?" That's one that's tough to get people to face. The second is, "This technology can't be as effective as the way we're conducting business today." It's the cynic in a lot of people.
What we did was say that we were going to do a couple of pilots anyway. We were able to do a results and cost side-by-side comparison. That's how we've gotten people over the hump.
SearchCRM.com: Have you seen ROI?
Staed: In a couple of cases we have. I can't share specifics, but I will tell you that there are some applications where frankly the return is immediate.
For example, we have a division that works with individuals that have not repaid student loans. Some of the agencies that have underwritten these student loans decided to come up with a refinancing plan. So one of the applications of PAR3 was to search out those folks who may have hidden from collection calls from individuals. It's not as embarrassing to interact with an IVR. We take them through a qualification process that yielded very good results with people taking us up on the refinancing offer immediately. In that case, the ROI has been pretty quick.
SearchCRM.com: How else have you used the solution?
Staed: In our healthcare division, where we're dealing with both individuals and insurance companies, we're going to use it to supplement the work that our agents do from our call centers. We want to reach out and touch more of the appropriate parties, what we call "right parties." We're taking a huge file of debtors, transferring that file to PAR3, they make the outbound calls, and then once someone picks up, the IVR asks, "Is this Mike Staed, social security number such-and-such? If so, please hit one." If they hit one, we know we have a right party. The next step could be either the individual making a payment arrangement through the IVR with a credit card or a check by phone, or they can be transferred back to a live agent. So the PAR3 technology is allowing us to qualify more right parties in a shorter period of time.
SearchCRM.com: What's been the most rewarding result of the solution so far?
Staed: I think we've found a supplier who has great support and a willingness to alter the base offering to meet our needs. Also, the early business results have been good. The PAR3 program is nearly three times as effective as our previous methods; we're now capable of closing 90 sales a day, an improvement over the previous 35. We have also increased our monthly outbound call volume by 600 percent.
SearchCRM.com: Do you have advice for companies thinking of starting a similar project?
Staed: My advice would be to turn over lots of rocks. In the space that PAR3 is in, there are quite a few other alternatives. There are lots of technology service providers in the marketplace. Don't be mislead -- if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Be willing to do the analytical and research work up front.
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