iSeries CRM Boosts Service Level At Sons of Norway
December 14, 2004 Alex Woodie
A new CRM system is paying dividends at Sons of Norway. By integrating Touchtone‘s Wintouch eCRM system with its OS/400 membership database, the Minneapolis organization has given its members Web-based self-service and has made its office staff’s job easier at the same time. Wintouch users like Sons of Norway will also benefit from new workflow enhancements Touchtone included in Wintouch eCRM Version 6.3, which was released last month.
Sons of Norway is a 109-year-old organization dedicated to the preservation of Norwegian and Scandinavian culture. It operates 420 lodges, publishes Viking Magazine and the Sons of Norway Web site, and provides $600 million in life insurance. Most of the organization’s 63,000 members reside in the United States, with the balance residing in Norway and Canada. The fraternal organization is a “true blue” shop and manages its insurance business from a home-grown OS/400 application. Domino is used for e-mail.
In 2002, Sons of Norway, led by its director of information technology, Rachele Hockert, began the search for new software that could help it interact with its membership. Some of the business procedures in the office and call center weren’t as smooth as they could have been. If, for example, members called to ask why they had not received an issue of Viking Magazine, the customer service reps probably wouldn’t immediately know the answer. The way they dealt with passing that question on in the past was time-consuming.
“Before, we might go back and forth with e-mail and then have to pull up information from our legacy green-screen application,” Hockert says. “Worse yet, someone may go ask another the question, and a two-minute answer would turn into a 20-minute conversation.”
Hockert and her team evaluated several CRM and membership management solutions, most of which ran on Windows, but a few ran on the iSeries. Usually, the choice of application dictates the platform, but not for Hockert, who wanted to keep any new applications on the rock-solid OS/400 platform, which had served the group well for many years. “I wouldn’t have even considered a CRM solution if it wasn’t on the iSeries,” she says. “Wintouch was the most affordable and offered the most flexibility.”
CRM for OS/400
Wintouch is a full-fledged CRM system, designed from the ground up for the OS/400 platform. The functionality offered within Wintouch is wide-ranging and flexible, especially when integrated with other OS/400-based applications, which is how it’s intended to be used.
The application satisfies the purely “traditional” CRM capability, which is tracking customer contacts no matter where they occur in the enterprise, with the goal of providing a “360 degree” view of the customer, as well as a single view of the company for the customer. In this case, the “customer” can also refer to any supplier or partner you do business with; it’s not limited to consumers.
Beyond the contact-management part of Wintouch, the application’s capability to integrate very closely with other OS/400 applications is crucial to what the product has to offer. The application can complement existing ERP systems by sharing a database, or serve as an entirely new front-end for data entry, account maintenance, or other activities performed in ERP, MRP, or SCM applications. This integration is the key to uniting the different areas of a business and getting everybody on the same page.
Since Sons of Norway went live on Wintouch eCRM Version 6.1.8 on an iSeries Model 810, in October 2003, it has become the primary application used by the 40 workers in the Minneapolis office and call center. Workers access the software through a Java applet downloaded to their Web browser. In the future, the organization might move to the version of Wintouch that’s implemented as a portlet with WebSphere Portal.
Wintouch in Action
Wintouch took a little getting used to for some of the staff who had been at Sons of Norway for a long time and were proficient with the green screen, Hockert says, but eventually everybody came to appreciate the new functionality offered in the GUI package. “It’s all about the workflow,” she says. “One very important thing Wintouch it is doing for us is forcing us to rethink ours, and giving us a powerful tool to implement a new way of doing things.”
While the group’s green-screen application had most of the information, Hockert says, it was missing one critical piece: customer interaction. “We didn’t have a way to track issues and interests of our members. We didn’t have a way to track the relationship,” she says. “You wouldn’t believe the flexibility that’s built into this solution. We can easily go into any one of the tables and change wording on error messages or activity categories that specifically apply to our organization.”
The Activities function within Wintouch has proved very popular in the call center. When workers have a question about how to handle something, they use the Activities function to get help. First, they type in the problem or their question, and then they choose a recipient. The next time the recipient logs on to Wintouch or refreshes the Activities list, that issue pops up and, hopefully, resolves it. In this way, all customer contacts and actions are centralized and logged, which enhances the organization’s capability to provide good customer service.
The Member Portal component of Wintouch is also helping members to do certain things for themselves. For example, members who winter in Florida (or the North Pole, for that matter) can now change their seasonal address from over the Web. The volume of all address changes previously required about 20 hours a week to handle the load, Hockert says, but the membership has proven receptive to the new Member Portal.
Power users at Sons of Norway are also using Wintouch to generate targeted marketing campaigns. For example, if Sons of Norway is going to be sending an insurance sales representative to a certain area, it can use Wintouch to look up all members within a certain distance of a lodge of a certain age group, and automatically generate the mailing to provide notice to the members. The Boolean search capability within Wintouch provides an intuitive way to query the DB2/400 database.
Sons of Norway is unequivocally satisfied with the Wintouch application. “We love it,” Hockert says. “We’re definitely more efficient. We’re able to grow the membership and service without adding more staff.”