BCAA gives customer tracking a boost

Before deploying customer relationship management (CRM) software from Siebel Systems Inc., it was nearly impossible for the British Columbia Automobile Association’s (BCAA) 600 front-line employees to access all the customer information they needed at once.

This is because information about BCAA customers is contained in 40 different systems and there was no method to view all the data in one place.

The BCAA offers numerous services spanning several different industries. It is a travel agency, an insurance company, offering five different kinds of insurance — car, home, pet, travel and life — and it offers emergency roadside assistance to drivers in B.C. and the Yukon. Jane Whittam, director of CRM at the BCAA in Burnaby B.C. explained that many of its customers use more than one of its services, so an insurance customer often also uses the CAA for roadside assistance, for example.

The Siebel CRM software, which the BCAA calls the Diamond System, lets a front-line worker — like a call centre agent or an associate in a sales centre — view all the BCAA services and products a customer uses and make changes to their file. Additionally, agents can see which marketing campaigns were directed at that customer and they can see all the transactions other agents have conducted with that customer.

Because an agent can view all the previous communication with a customer, it is easier for them to help to resolve problems. For example, a customer who calls in with questions about insurance coverage and roadside assistance package can have both questions answered quickly and easily in one call.

CRM isn’t the first Siebel application the BCAA has deployed. The CRM deployment was part of a project that started in 2001, Whittam said. BCAA also runs the Siebel Sales Force Automation 6.3 product as well. The next step in the BCAA’s project is to consolidate its 40 disparate systems onto an open source platform based on Jboss and Linux, Whittam said.

Deploying CRM software has always been a greater challenge for small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) than for large enterprises because offerings from independent software vendors (ISVs) have traditionally been designed and priced for the larger user. In December Siebel announced a new strategy to focus on smaller companies. Seibel launched a CRM OnDemand product in conjunction with IBM Global Services so SMBs can avoid additional hardware and software costs. CRM OnDemand has features including real-time and historic analytics, contact centre capabilities and solutions for verticals such as automotive, finance, insurance and life sciences. Siebel has also unveiled a slimmed down version of its enterprise CRM product called CRM Professional Edition.

Michael Hyjek, senior analyst for customer segments at IDC Canada Ltd. in Toronto said there is definitely a big opportunity for ISVs to sell CRM solutions to the SMB market. According to a study conducted by IDC in 2004, over 20 per cent of SMBs were looking to deploy or pilot a CRM solution within 12 to 18 months, Hyjek said.

Two things that prevent SMBs from deploying CRM are complacency — a lot of SMBs already think they do a great job with customer relations — and other SMBs develop their own CRM in-house, Hyjek said. In terms of on-demand solutions, Hyjek said there is no evidence that smaller firms are more likely to go with a hosted solution, it’s more dependent upon the nature of their business and the problems they are trying to solve.

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