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Insurance firm uses call-routing software to reach Hispanic community

A lead generation company is using call-routing software to reach out to Spanish-speaking consumers seeking insurance.

First, there's the task of connecting Spanish-speaking callers to insurance companies' contact center agents who are also fluent in the language.

Then, there is the matter of ensuring that those prospective customers find insurance companies that can actually help them.

That describes the work performed by We Speak Insurance, a Gilbert, Ariz., firm that acts as a Web-based middleman between people who want to buy insurance and the companies that sell it.

We Speak Insurance, also known as "Hablamos Seguros," offers a separate connection for English speakers. In fact, 95% of its calls are mass market; only 5% are from the bilingual, Latino market, said Jaimie Pickles, president of the company. But it was founded to offer improved service to Hispanic customers who often found themselves lost in the agency shuffle because of a language barrier.

The founder of the company, Dave Stafford, was selling insurance in Arizona nearly a decade ago when he recognized that Hispanic consumers could use a company dedicated to their needs. The realization came when he noticed that members of the Hispanic community were keeping his five Spanish-speaking agents very busy.

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He soon established a Spanish website for his agency and got swamped with requests for insurance information from across the country. That's when he expanded We Speak Insurance and contracted with agencies all over the U.S. that have bilingual agents.

But as the lead generation business bloomed, it became evident that the company needed better call-routing software. Prospective customers whose needs and histories didn't fit the criteria of an agency were told that insurance was not available, and they were effectively dropped from the line of communication, Pickles said.

About two years ago, We Speak Insurance started using a call-marketing automation system by RingRevenue, a Software as a Service provider in Santa Barbara, Calif., and hasn't looked back, he said. One thing that drew We Speak to RingRevenue was its call-routing capabilities, which its previous system lacked, he said.

"It's a business that we would not have been able to build without this technology," Pickles said. "We're pleased with it, but we've really just begun to make the most of it."

For instance, in the first half of this year, Pickles expects 150,000 customer calls to go to one of the several insurance agencies that work with We Speak Insurance. Without the call routing software, the company would never shoot for those numbers, he said.

That's because the software mines the information a potential customer uploads on a We Speak Insurance website or mobile platform and determines which participating agency should take the call.

The software reviews a customer's state of residence, insured status, the time of day and day of week to measure available agents and other criteria. The software then connects the person to an English-speaking or Spanish-speaking contact center agent at an insurance agency.

But many consumers don't like to enter information on a website or mobile platform and are leery that they might get "bombarded" with email, Pickles said. That's why the company also taps the interactive voice response technology on the software to learn customer information on the phone and transfer callers accordingly.

Pickles stumbled on RingRevenue after helping an insurance company find call technology for an application it had wanted to use. At the time, Pickles needed a "basic call platform where I could establish a bank of phone numbers and real-time performance tracking for both marketing partners and advertisers," he said.

RingRevenue didn't have such a platform. But "we worked together on an enhanced model that was much more ambitious than we originally envisioned. Nobody had ever built what we were looking to build, so there was no blueprint to follow," he said.

Aside from call routing, the software's analytical capabilities has won over the insurance companies that contract with We Speak Insurance, Pickles said. The software shows the source of a call and other information, and insurance companies appreciate having real-time data to measure the effectiveness of their marketing campaigns, he said.

The call-routing software gave We Speak Insurance the confidence to offer a unique service that other lead-generation companies lack, Pickles said. It catches the consumers who had fallen in the cracks, he said. The company pays two partner insurance agencies to give We Speak Insurance's phone number to those rejected customers. Those consumers are then run through We Speak's system and matched with an agency that will do business, he said.

Constructing and using a new software program caused "a lot of bumps and bruises," Pickles said. "We learned this together. This was new ground we were plowing."

One problem came as a result of increased business. Some of the company's marketing partners would "piggyback" their ads on known insurance brands. For example, when people typed “Progressive auto insurance” in a Web search, they’d not only see an ad for We Speak Insurance, but also ads for those marketing partners. By running those ads, the partners had breached their contracts with We Speak, he said.

But the RingRevenue program isolated those wrongly-placed ads and revealed who had done it, Pickles said.

Pickles hopes his prediction for 2013 comes true. "Advertisers love this," he said. "We're delivering consumer-initiated inbound calls. No one else is getting the call. In lead gen, nothing is better."

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