epa connect GmbH
- Published: March 31, 2013
- Written by Nathaniel Palmer
Executive Summary / Abstract
epa connect GmbH supports the technology systems for its sister company, impuls Finanzmanagement, a market leader in independent consulting and procurement of private health insurance contracts. Several complex processes are involved with impuls Finanzmanagement’s day-to-day business as the company compares offers from several insurance companies, analyzes the coverage and calculates price-performance benefits. The company also guarantees acceptance by the insurance companies from which they receive offers and provides advisors who council customers through the whole process.
About two years ago, sales representatives and IT experts set the goal of expediting and simplifying the company’s processes by implementing a BPM system to virtualize services. In response, epa connect developed a solution that allows customers and representatives to meet, complete and sign necessary paperwork and forward contracts to the insurance carriers, all online. All the while, the system safeguards sensitive information and manages legal requirements involved. Benefits gained from the implementation include expanded customer access to services, reduced demands on staff, a new competitive edge in reaching and meeting with new customers and improved quality and timeliness of materials available to customers.
impuls Finanzmanagement decided that in order to gain an edge over its competitors, the company would leverage the reach of the web to enable dynamic, interactive sessions between insurance agents and clients. The goal was to support a fully digital process for signing up customers for new services. The types of information exchanged posed a challenge with regard to handling sensitive customer information and insurance data and meeting legal requirements. It was imperative that the exchange of personal, medical, and lifestyle information be adequately managed. In addition to supporting easy online interactions, the system had to enable staff and customers to electronically complete and sign legally-binding contracts, all while enabling staff to still have engaging and personalized interactions with customers. At the end of the process, customers needed to receive a copy of the insurance contract, while duplicate copies were to be automatically archived.
There are many benefits to the new system implemented by impuls. For example, during online meetings, advisors can use multimedia content such as flyers, videos, and presentations, facilitating collaboration with customers and making customer interactions more powerful. The system enables people to fill out secure electronic insurance documents and sign them with digital signatures. epa connect developed miniature applications called Pods to simplify and organize the screen layout of its customer-facing application. The Pods display audio, video, or presentation fields and the contract forms, providing customers a richer, more engaging experience. Once the terms of the agreement are reached, the contracts can be electronically sent to the customer and a second copy is automatically archived. The backend system helps ensure seamless data exchange. Also, from the archives, all insurance documents can be accessed securely through the impuls customer portal, supporting customer self service.
Overall, the advantages were clear: Expanded customer access to services, reduced demands on staff, significantly lower travel costs, a new competitive edge in reaching and meeting with new customers, higher closing quotas and improved quality and timeliness of materials available to customers.
The German financial services market is extremely competitive—there are many insurance brokers and carriers. As the largest insurance broker in Germany, impuls Finanzmanagement knows the market can only be won by delivering standout customer experiences. However, with all the paperwork and legalities involved, this can seem like a daunting task for financial services providers. For example, impuls Finanzmangement compares offers from up to 40 different insurance companies with more than 20,000 fee variations in order to find their customers the best possible deals. They then analyze the coverage and calculate price-performance benefits. And all of this takes place before the contract and paperwork signing even begins.
Before the BPM system was implemented all processes were manual and had to take place in person. A typical enrollment transaction involved an agent visiting potential customers’ homes with a briefcase full of paperwork, or the customer making time for in-person appointments at the agent’s office. It wasn’t rare for multiple appointments to be necessary to complete a single enrolment, along with mailing and/or faxing back and forth of signed documents. This process was not only time consuming for both agents and customers, it also left considerable room for human error. A number of things could go wrong: The agent may realize that they have the wrong forms or not enough copies; the customer may not have all the necessary information at hand; the completed paperwork may have errors and have to be resent; errors may occur when the agent enters/processes the customers’ information into the backend systems, etc. Such delays could prove costly to impuls, especially if it ultimately drove the customer to look for services elsewhere.
The Key Innovations
impuls customers see many benefits from the new BPM system. With the implementation, impuls is able to streamline the complex insurance enrollment process, cutting out the need for travel and filling, mailing and faxing paper documents. The potential for human error is also virtually eliminated by the new system so significant back-and-forth is avoided. And although transactions on the new system take place online, the technology allows for real-time web meetings and dynamic presentations through which agents can guide customers from start to finish—the personal and engaging feeling of in-person meetings isn’t lost. Agents can provide the same quality service when and where it’s convenient for customers.
Enrollments on the new BPM system happen at least two to three times more efficiently than through in-person transactions and the system boasts a 90 percent closure rate. Faster transactions mean more time to close more sales, which is a win not only for impuls, but also for the insurance companies they work with. Further, the insurance companies can feel assured that final paperwork and contracts will be delivered quickly and error-free.
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Prior to the implementation of impuls direct, impuls’ business was strictly based on outbound sales. Agents would call prospective clients on the telephone and then travel to the home or office of any potential leads to discuss the details of various offers, bringing with them a stack of papers including forms, contracts and informational materials. It wasn’t rare for it to take more than one visit before a customer made up their minds about wanting to enroll and about what services they preferred. At this point, agents would walk customers through the contracts and paperwork either by yet another in-person meeting, or over the phone (which could lead to confusion and time-consuming errors). Once the customer’s paperwork was completed, the agent had to manually enter it into their backend system for archiving and send it to the adequate insurance company, once again, leaving considerable room for mistakes.
impuls direct reduced a process which previously took several days down to a few hours (at most). After agents learn of a potential lead, they can now arrange for an online meeting where they can provide informative materials, easy to understand visuals and demonstrations digitally. Once a customer is ready to enroll, agents can—in real time—walk customers step-by-step through each digital form and contact which customers can fill out, sign and submit online. Once a customer submits a form, it is automatically processed, archived and delivered to the adequate insurance company by an integrated backend system.
impuls direct has dramatically changed and enhanced the jobs of impuls sales agents. Most obviously perhaps are the financial benefits. Agents are paid on commission and with a system that’s two-to-three times more efficient and has a 90 percent close rate, their earnings increase dramatically. The system has created an ideal situation for agents because they are able to process transactions much faster and more accurately, while still being able to interact directly and build rapport with customers through online meetings. Although an outbound sales force still exists, they are able to focus on customers with special needs that require in person visits. Over the past two years impuls Finanzmanagement has gone from zero to 140 online sales agents located in three call centers throughout Germany.
impuls direct is managed by epa connect GmbH , impuls Finanzmanagement’s sister company. Executives at impuls Finanzmanagement founded epa connect GmbH as their full-time IT systems support group. Having the team of IT experts at epa connect GmbH enable agents and staff at impuls Finanzmanagement to focus their time and energy on the business aspect of insurance, without having to worry about technology issues and IT projects.
One major issue that impuls management had to resolve was concerns from employees that with the implementation of impuls direct outbound sales agents might lose commission as online sales increase. In order to address concerns impuls’s management implemented a policy which stated that outbound sales agents would keep the full commission resulting from any lead that they passed along to online sales agents.
impuls’s management founded sister company, epa connect GmbH, to manage all of impuls Finanzmangement’s IT projects. This freed them from having to deal with potential hurdles associated with IT and technology issues.
The implementation of a new BPM system can be costly. However, impuls saw ROI from impuls direct within 11 months of the implementation. Beyond the high success rate of the new online sales meetings, the online system requires no travel and no paper, greatly reducing the cost of resources associated to sales as well. The new tech-savvy sales force tends to be of a younger demographic as well, which helps impuls reduce employment salary costs.
impuls implemented a training program for employees using impuls direct. The complete program takes only ten days to complete. Since the system is automated and very intuitive, it has been easy for impuls’s sales force to adopt.
With the implementation of impuls direct, impuls Finanzmangement has seen cost savings associated with each of the following categories:
Employee Salaries — The new tech-savvy sales force tends to be of a younger demographic which requires lower base salaries. Since meetings with customers happen online rather than in person, potential concerns about customers feeling uncomfortable working with a younger insurance agent are eliminated.
Travel — Since impuls’s online sales agents don’t travel, they have no travel costs to expense.
Paper and printing materials — impuls direct eliminates the need for paper-based materials and forms and dramatically reduces printing and mailing needs.
With a no need for travel, faxing, mailing, significantly reduced error margins and a fully automated digital system, impuls direct has converted a sales process that previously took several days to one that takes a few hours at most.
impuls direct has helped drive revenues at impuls Finanzmangement through its efficiency and effectiveness. The cost and time saving discussed above combined with its easy adoptability and 90 percent closure rate lead the company to see ROI within 11 months of the implementation.
Best Practices, Learning Points and Pitfalls
Best Practices and Learning Points
- Involve all company stake holders in communications and trainings associated with the new implementation
- Establish a committed IT support team that is separate from business and sales staff
- Maintain a close relationship with vendor for technical support
- When transferring a sales process that was previously face-to-face to an online system, the system should have capabilities that can deliver a stellar customer experience. Clients should feel engaged and the quality of service should not be compromised.
- Do not leave any stake holders out of the loop in terms of the new implementation. Be particularly cautious that employees that will continue to operate within the original business model have a thorough understanding of the new system and what it implies, even if they will not operate the system directly.
- When possible, avoid overlap between business staff and operations and IT.
- For online sales, video conferencing is not always an appropriate action. Customers should be focused on the product and the agents’ presentations, not on agents’ appearances.
Through its implementation of impuls direct, impuls Finanzmangement took the old tried-and-true insurance sales tactic of working closely with and engaging the customer, and made it much more efficient, effective, flexible and less prone to error. The 140 new online sales agents and three new call centers that impuls has opened since the implementation certainly help maintain the company’s position as the leading and largest insurance broker in Germany.
To maintain their competitive edge impuls finanzmangement is currently expanding impuls direct’s capabilities to integrate with new electronic identity cards that will be issued to German citizens in 2011.
In an effort to find the right technology to automate the complex and document intensive insurance enrollment process, epa connect surve ed several enterprise technology vendors and discovered Adobe offered technology that fit their needs from end-to-end.
During online meetings using Adobe Connect, agents can use multimedia content such as flyers, videos, and presentations—similar to what mobile sales teams use, except it can now be handled virtually. epa connect developed miniature applications called Pods to simplify and organize the screen layout of its customer facing application. The Pods display audio, video, or presentation fields and the contract forms. To allow for the exchange of personal, medical, and lifestyle information from customers, epa connect GmbH established legal and technical requirements, and created a plug-in for Adobe Connect to collect data securely over the Internet. The system lets customers fill out insurance contracts electronically, sign them digitally, submit them to impuls who can then forward contracts to the insurance carrier. Upon submission, the customer receives a copy of the insurance contract and a second copy is automatically archived.
Interactions between the Adobe Connect Pro user application and Adobe LiveCycle Enterprise Suite (ES) on the back end help ensure seamless data exchange. Adobe LiveCycle ES modules are used to manage updates to contract forms received from more than 40 insurance providers on a regular basis. impuls receives most of the contract forms in Portable Document Format (PDF) and developed a converter to read the PDF forms and publish them online in individualized Adobe Connect Pro securely hosted web “meeting rooms.” Here, people can fill out the contracts. After completion, the contracts in PDF are submitted to a LiveCycle workflow process that handles digital signatures input and submission to a revision-safe archival solution managed by EASY software AG.
All insurance documents can be accessed securely through the impuls customer portal. The IT experts managed to combine Adobe Connect Pro, LiveCycle ES, and EASY ARCHIVE software into a seamless workflow.
The Technology and Service Providers
Adobe Systems Inc., www.adobe.com
© Copyright: This case study was originally published in the Excellence in Practice series in the book entitled “Delivering BPM Excellence”
Get the complete book in both Digital (download PDF) and Print Editions at http://futstrat.com/books/Delivering_BPM.php published by Future Strategies Inc.