Online Service from Blue Cross/Blue Shield of FL (795 words)
Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Florida gears up for online service and sales (795 words)
By Rob Panepinto
FACED WITH THE CHALLENGES of selling a complex product online and protecting its well-established brand, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida (BCBSF) recognized that knowledgeable, efficient customer service is critical. The company wanted to empower customers to interact via the channel of their choice but also realized consumers expect outstanding service regardless of how they contact a company—and that their expectations may be even higher for the Web.
Among BCBSF's objectives for the spring 2001 launch of Internet Pilot, its first-ever initiative to sell health insurance online, are:
•lower costs by driving sales through a more efficient channel;
•improve existing relationships with customers and brokers;
•increase sales through new leads and expanded ancillary products; and
•provide competitive advantage by meeting customer demand for online services.
To accomplish these goals, BCBSF needed state-of-the-art customer-
service applications, and just as importantly, sophisticated IT integration to support them.
While its outsourcing search initially focused on finding multiple partners to provide various solutions, BCBSF ultimately decided to use a turnkey source for Web development and implementation services. A large part of that decision was based on the desire for access to real-time information across all channels to better serve customers, as well as the preference for using one central database to manage sensitive customer information.
Developing the Web Site
The health insurance provider selected Connextions.net to develop the site on top of the Siebel CRM platform and to seamlessly integrate it with BCBSF's upcoming internal Siebel implementation. In addition, the goal was to provide consistent customer service by equipping Connextions.net CSRs with the same advanced tools as BCBSF's field agents and internal customer care staff. At Connextions.net's customer care center, the company integrated Siebel's Call Center System with Connextions' Aspect Customer Access Portal.
Siebel's CRM tool captures customer information, tracking it through the sales process from lead to closing. The Aspect Portal essentially is a multi-channel call-router that sends incoming contacts—via phone, e-mail or live chat—to the appropriate agent, based on agents' skill levels, service-level requirements, volume and work load.
Intuitive Customer Assistance
The integrated environment means CSRs have access to real-time information. The moment a customer contacts BCBSF via phone, e-mail or instant messaging, a CSR's computer screen provides detailed contact history, as well as the responses the customer has provided to questions about his or her age, health history and insurance plan preferences.
To facilitate driving as many sales as possible solely via the Web, Siebel's Web Order Entry tool allows a self-service option for customers to submit enrollment information. While it steers customers toward completing an online purchase, it leaves them the option to speak directly to a CSR or to locate a BCBSF field sales agent for referral.
To assist in customer service and help close sales online, Aspect's Web Agent tool enables live, text-based chat between CSRs and customers. The CSR, through the Siebel interface, can pull up a specific Web page and guide the customer through the application process, or immediately send the application to the customer via e-mail or U.S. mail. By providing a specific screen, the CSR instantly can give detailed information, even circling and highlighting key sections.
Also during a text-chat session, browser synchronization allows both parties to view the same form. Unlike most platforms, the CSR actually can fill in information to help the customer complete the purchase. This feature was considered particularly important for assisting customers who inquire about BCBSF's Over-65 plans, who, according to the company's first in-house test, had the highest abandonment rate among site visitors.
Any e-mail queries generated by the site are handled using a system of "fuzzy logic" to categorize them based on key words. Aspect's eGain e-mail automation tool not only directs inquiries to the most qualified agent, the fuzzy logic suggests scripted, yet customizable, responses.
Visitors can interact with the site in other ways, such as performing rate calculations, retrieving census data and requesting literature. Rates can be retrieved without logging onto the site, or a customer can log on (creating a record in Siebel) to get more specific quotes based on more extensive questioning.
Personalized application packets can be ordered and printed from the Connextions Literature Fulfillment Print On Demand Station. As literature is printed and mailed, status is updated within Siebel, providing up-to-the-minute information and accommodating changes to applications, confirmation letters and e-mails in real time.
Each specific tool within the Internet Pilot program is designed to facilitate the customer-CSR interaction. The aim, of course, is to increase sales and produce customer loyalty by providing flexible service at every stage of the customer experience.
Rob Panepinto is senior vice president/director of sales and development for Connextions.net. He can be reached at (407) 926-2411 or via e-mail at email@example.com.