December 20, 2011

As insurers continue to modernize IT infrastructure, many are looking to create a single customer view. This perspective helps to provide an accurate and holistic view of any one policyholder across different channels and lines of business.

Achieving a complete customer perspective is important to business success and maximizing existing relationships. It helps better comply with regulations, prevent premium leakage, save costs, and increase staff efficiency.

While there are many benefits to creating a single customer view, several barriers exist in today’s business environment. First, most insurers maintain different databases and conduct business through multiple channels. There could be a series of independent agents, a self-service website and a call center. Each department may also have different databases that do not communicate with each other, which can hinder a complete customer perspective.

In addition, many CRM systems today make it easier to enter a duplicate record than find an existing account. Systems often require an exact match to identify a duplicate rather than considering abbreviations and phonetic matching.

All of these scenarios lead to inconsistent data spread across an organization, making a single policyholder view difficult to achieve. However, this view is attainable if the right strategy is implemented. Creating this consistent policyholder view starts with developing a strategy around accurate data. Contact data in particular is almost always found across databases and can be useful when combining systems.

Insurers need to employ techniques that break down barriers and improve the ability to merge and remove duplicates. This is a five-step process:

Step 1: Create a Strategy Before implementing new tools, it is important to create a strategy for data migration. This will be different for every business, depending on overall objectives.

Start by engaging affected parties from multiple departments. Most data stewards work with fixed data and rely on business stakeholders to provide insight. Similarly, business stakeholders may not understand the intricacies involved in data management and migration projects. Because of this, all affected parties should be involved in the planning process to ensure a strategy is reasonable and meets business objectives.

Next, organizations should review the data in their system. Review data collection channels and identify patterns of errors. Based on these patterns, projects can be prioritized based on the business impact.

The final section of this phase is determining the criteria for success. Stakeholders should set quantifiable metrics related to data errors so that success can be measured after the completion of the project.

Step 2: Cleanse Existing Data After a plan has been created and data standards set, stakeholders should look to improve the accuracy of policyholder contact data across the insurance organization. Clean data aids many departments, from underwriting to claims, but it also helps with profiling information.

To clean existing data, contact information can be run through scrubbing tools. The ideal tool will correct and standardize details, like mailing address, phone or email. By cleaning existing records in bulk, data stewards improve matching results. Additionally, back-end validation tools refine the work associated with updated incomplete or invalid records.

Step 3: Merge Accounts Insurers should consolidate data whenever possible. While there may be different data collection systems in each department, it is important for each insurer to have one consolidated database. This ensures that stakeholders can have a complete view across the organization.

Step 4: Remove Duplicates Software can help to match name and contact details together. While top de-duplication systems match on phonetics for names, they also rely on other elements, such as mailing address and account number. If all entries are cleaned and formatted consistently, the accuracy of these systems is improved.

Step 5: Prevent Inaccuracies Organizations need to prevent inaccurate and duplicate data from entering their system. Tools can be put in place to enhance CRMs/ERPs. First, cleansing tools should be implemented at each point of entry. The ideal tool works seamlessly throughout call centers, agent portals and websites. These tools should interact in real time to remove the possibility of human error while the policyholder still engaged.

Next, software should be integrated into the CRM/ERP to enhance searching capabilities and prevent staff members from opening duplicate accounts.

While creating a single policyholder view can seem challenging, it can be accomplished if the right multipronged data quality strategy is put into place.

About the author: Thomas Schutz is SVP and GM for Experian QAS North America, serving as the company's top executive for all strategic business decisions in the United States and Canada. Tom started with the company in 2004 as a sales representative and worked his way through the company, eventually becoming the VP of sales in 2008 before taking over North American operations in 2010. He be reached at thomas.schutz@qas.com.