Western Provident Association's Web site adds the personal touch

Healthcare provider Western Provident Association (WPA) was established nearly 100 years ago. It has more than half a million...

Healthcare provider Western Provident Association (WPA) was established nearly 100 years ago. It has more than half a million clients, providing a range of private medical insurance, dental plans and medical cash plans for individuals and corporate subscribers

The problem
WPA wanted to develop a Web site to manage customer enquiries. However, customer questions and issues regarding health insurance are highly personal and difficult to address on the frequently asked questions page of the Web site. Also, most of WPA's clients are not Internet-savvy, so the site needed to be very easy to navigate and intuitive.

Company requirement
All WPA subscribers needed to be able to administer their accounts online. The healthcare provider wanted to build in functionality so that the administration process was automated and simple, including the delivery of personalised information based on unique customer profiles. WPA also wanted to integrate the Web page with its existing Allaire Spectra content management and personalisation systems. The aim was to provide easy-to-use content management tools, while leveraging existing business rules, reducing e-mail and telephone volumes and providing customer service at a lower cost.

The solution
US-based provider of Web support technology, Native Minds, implemented a "virtual representative" system. This service meant 24x7 customer support is provided. Users can ask questions in plain English and receive immediate, automated, personalised responses. Spectra collaborative filtering tools are used, which weight queries based on log-on information. Native Minds' Neuroserver plug-in architecture enabled WPA to integrate its virtual representative system with its Allaire Spectra and other existing systems and leverage the business rules stored in Allaire. It was made very easy for WPA to interface with and leverage existing infrastructure using prebuilt modules such as Native Minds' object database connectivity plug-in.

The result
WPA has noticed immediate return on investment results with decreased call centre hits and an estimated 10% reduction in customer e-mail volume on the online self-service section. The virtual representative receives 350 daily enquiries on average, many of which would previously have taken place on the telephone and cost WPA more money. Between 70% and 80% of all questions can be answered directly by the automated service, more complex questions are answered with content from the database, with some being escalated to a WPA agent.

Customers now have 24x7 support and services. The Web site has become much more user friendly and useful to potential and existing customers.
This was last published in October 2003

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