After attending Dreamforce — the annual Salesforce.com in-person event — and listening to several presentations from insurance users, we believe that the use of SalesForce.com products and services has the potential to be as powerful as the business strategy it supports.
If you are using or evaluating SalesForce.com, we are interested in your impressions.
A brief history; CRM was just the starting point …
Salesforce.com started in San Francisco in 1999, targeting the need for a highly portable, flexible, on-line Customer Relationship Management system. The primary differentiator was that it existed in ‘the cloud’; there was no software to install, no databases to backup, no add-ins to buy.
If you had a browser and a credit card, you could buy in for a monthly fee roughly equal to the price of two grande lattes. By the middle of the first decade of the 21st century, the company was on a trajectory to dominate the CRM market, routinely doubling end users each year.
By 2010, the Salesforce.com platform was handling 400 million transactions per day and had a growing army of developers releasing new applications. The company was also busy buying some companies and partnering with others to expand the depth an breadth of the products and services offered.
At Dreamforce 13, which attracted 130,00 registrants, it became clear that the name of Salesforce.com’s game is innovation, with a panoply of services to address a variety of business challenges. Kind of like a benevolent Hydra, acting as a concierge to the new world of commerce.
While not the largest industry at the party, insurance is increasingly taking note. There were enough presenters to create a one-day insurance ‘stream.’ We’ll discuss one presentation and one conversation that show the possibilities being explored.
Insurance on a journey – approaching the Holy Grail of engagement
Jim Ryan, senior vice president, Global Distribution at AIG, presented on his company’s adoption and learning ‘journey.’ The first step was experimental, creating a transactional website experience for its broker partners. This allowed the ability to bring product information to market more quickly, but it didn’t allow for a ‘sticky’ experience.
AIG saw sufficient value to refine this, creating a partner portal, with a product focus and ability to create markets within the virtual community. There was emphasis on metrics which improved alignment of the objectives of all the players.
The offering has evolved to the current Communities based offering which is relationship based, putting a premium on communications and allowing support for an end-to-end process.
Ryan noted that this is now approaching the ‘Holy Grail’ of marketing engagement, where the customer, broker, and carrier are intertwined in a process to meet changing risk requirements.
Agency management systems – yesterday’s news?
At an insurance focused reception, we got into a conversation with an independent agent who started using Salesforce.com in its native mode for prospect and client tracking. He went on to discuss how well this worked for his particular market niche, that he began using additional features for tracking transactions and providing standardized information to his markets. The agent was especially excited with all of the metrics that are available.
We asked the agent if he had integrated Salesforce.com with his Agency Management System. The agent grinned and said, “No. This isn’t an add on to my AMS. It is a replacement.”
So, what next?
It is clear that Salesforce.com is on a rapid growth trajectory, and there are a number of compelling case studies which show significant opportunities for the insurance industry.
There are skeptics who note that we have seen this movie in different forms before. However, as long as implementors stay focused on the real end product (meeting clients’ need for risk and insurance management solutions), this toolbox seems to have lots to offer.
We saw this with Jim Ryan’s presentation. There was a question about the use of Salesforce.com in a open environment; would AIG be exposing proprietary information without control?
Ryan said that providing information and a place for collaboration doesn’t mean that the company will give information away. Besides, Ryan said, “Using ‘Communities’ is how we play the game. It isn’t the game. Insurance is the game.”
What do you think?
Are you using Salesforce.com, or seriously evaluating it? What are your impressions? Did you attend Dreamforce? What was it like for you?