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7/23/2007
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Insurance.com Optimizes the Customer Experience, One Segment at a Time

On its path to leadership among online agencies, the "Orbitz of auto insurance" takes a fine-grained approach to improving customer satisfaction and driving more clickthroughs.

There are about 100 million households in the US that purchase auto insurance. About 28 million of them shopped for a new policy last year, and some 18 million ended up switching providers, according to Forrester Research. Talk about customer churn!

Despite these jaw-dropping stats, it is possible to win customer loyalty in the huge, $164 billion auto insurance market. Just ask Dave Roush, president and CEO of Insurance.com, which has vaulted to the top of the online agency business in just six short years. The company is on track to sell 180,000 policies this year, thanks in large measure to what Roush describes as "a sustainable competitive advantage in business intelligence" that enables the company to "up-sell, cross-sell and create longstanding relationships."

Roush describes Insurance.com as the Orbitz of auto insurance because it's a site where consumers can get instant comparative quotes from more than a dozen carriers (just as Orbitz represents multiple airlines, hotel chains and car rental agencies). BI has been crucial to understanding all the data Insurance.com collects through its rate-quoting engine, but the key to putting that insight to work has been a customer experience management initiative that has reshaped the company's Web site, call center and other customer touch points.

Insurance.com's version of the silo problem (see "Do the Right Thing: Gain the Customer Experience Advantage Over CRM" ) has been the coexistence of its direct business (the Insurance.com site) and that of partner financial institutions and branded sites also managed by the company (accounting for 30 percent of its business). As the company grew, customers wound up obtaining multiple quotes on the same system. "We were treating these customers like three different people because there was no way to aggregate the data," explains Joe Singleton, IT Director. "We were living in a [Web] session-based world, but we needed to move to a customer-based view."

In 2006, the company embarked on a three-phase project with the goals of realigning the data architecture around customers (rather than Web sessions); creating a more granular, segmented approach to customer understanding; and integrating the new data architecture and CRM tools for more effective customer experiences at every touch point.

To develop a single view of customers, the company implemented DataFlux software for matching and consolidating customer records. It also upgraded from Microsoft SQL-bundled Data Transformation Services to Informatica ETL software. Analytics software from SAS was purchased to support fine-grained segmentation of the consolidated customer data.

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