Guardian Life Boosts Productivity with CRM System

Guardian Life Insurance Company of America's telephone service representatives are using new customer relationship management technology that was installed in its call center this spring.

The technology provides the foundation for an enterprise-wide CRM system to enable easier identification of potential targets for up-sell and cross-sell opportunities.

The company installed technology from Pegasystems Inc., Cambridge, MA, that is delivering information about its corporate customers to agents' desktops when calls come in. The results of these contacts are recorded.

Previously, Guardian's customer service representatives had to retrieve information from separate databases that were designed to support management functions.

The process was time-consuming and overly complicated for the representatives, according to Raymond Cerankowski, vice president of customer relationship development at Guardian Life, New York.

“[The old database] was very limited,” he said. “Because we had all these legacy systems, it became a very lengthy learning curve to be able to navigate all these systems and become very efficient.”

The in-class training time for service reps on the legacy systems was six weeks, and it often took years before they became truly proficient. Agents are learning the Pegasystems product in two days.

“It's a user-friendly system,” Cerankowski said. “Although we are in a learning curve at this point, the reps love it because it decreases their frustration and their stress levels so they can really concentrate and focus on the interaction with the customer.”

Guardian established its customer service center as an operation separate from its sales department about three years ago, but it was not using a call management system that allowed agents to access information about customers easily. The company's three call centers handle about 3,000 calls per day from independent brokers requesting enrollment, policy and benefits information.

By the fourth quarter, the company expects to extend the system into call centers that provide service to individual members. It also expects to be able to use Pegasystems' rules-based solution to create a self-service function component on the company's Web site that will allow customers and brokers to obtain insurance information themselves without going through the call centers.

Cerankowski said that despite the difficulty in using the old database system, the call center was meeting its service goals. It was resolving inquiries on the first call 85 percent of the time and within 24 hours for the remaining 15 percent.

“It was just very costly because of all of the manual processes,” he said. “But we wanted to allow the agents to make it more personalized. We wanted a situation where the agents would actually listen to the customer and communicate rather than focusing on the process or the system.”

Because of the increased efficiency, the center will be able to handle additional capacity. Also, agents' responsibilities can be broadened without the need to add more service representatives.

Before installing Pegasystems, Guardian identified 20 manual processes that its agents had to perform in handling calls, some of which took 20 steps to complete. The processes were reduced so they could be accomplished in two or three steps by converting to the rules-based CRM solution.

In addition to basic call center metrics such as first-call resolution and abandonment rates, the system is also measuring customer retention rates and customer satisfaction by storing results from customer service surveys.

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