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Pacific Specialty Insurance Company (PSIC)

The "One Spot" for Flexible Customer Service

PSIC finds iVoice™ to be a nice complement to their customer service staffTitle. Double click me.

Reliable, prompt customer service is the key in any industry – especially the insurance business. Pacific Specialty Insurance Company (PSIC) (, the flagship of the McGraw Group of Affiliated Companies, considers itself the "one spot" where independent brokers and agents can source all their clients' coverage needs, including homeowners, renters, automobile, watercraft and commercial insurance. PSIC also prides itself on offering superior customer service to their policy holders.

Over the past few years, PSIC has experienced dramatic growth that has increased their need for reliable, timely and efficient customer service. With over 200,000 policy holders in 50 states, and 10,000 to 20,000 independent agents, PSIC's customer service representatives (CSRs) receive roughly 80,000 calls per month. These calls range from simple, short calls about payments due and policy renewal dates to more involved inquiries about policy quotes, coverage and claims procedures.

The customer service staff was beginning to feel overburdened and in a Catch 22 situation – the more involved calls were keeping customers and agents with quick inquiries on hold much longer than necessary and, on the other hand, the short calls were keeping CSRs from being able to go the extra mile for the more involved calls. The company also received a lot of payments through the mail, which resulted in additional time processing paperwork.

Because of the growth spurt and the concerns over how the PSIC CSRs could maintain their high quality of service with so many calls, the McGraw Group decided to investigate alternative methods of providing customer service to their policy holders. Offering policy information and payment capabilities over the Internet was not an option PSIC embraced, as they only used their Web site as a service tool for the independent agents that sell PSIC insurance. The McGraw team decided that an interactive voice response (IVR) system was the perfect complement to their top-notch customer service department.

Donald McAllister, PSIC's Chief Information Officer, was responsible for choosing the IVR system that would meet PSIC's needs. With an AS/400 database, the options for a high-quality IVR system that would integrate "out of the box" with their system were limited. However, when McAllister attended the Spring 2001 COMMON Expo in New Orleans, he discovered iMessaging Systems, Inc. and their premier AS/400 IVR solution, iVoice™. The choice was "pretty much a no brainer," said McAllister, "since it is designed specifically for the AS/400." Additionally, when McAllister previously looked into IVR, he didn't like what he saw: "We had been considering IVR for some time, but found it cost-prohibitive in the past…until we discovered the iMessaging solution."

PSIC's goals for their iVoice™ IVR system were to maintain a high level of service to customers and producers while providing quicker responses and to increase the CSRs' productivity. If a routine question or policy payment could be quickly handled by iVoice™, it would allow the CSRs to spend more time on calls that required more involved service, such as policy research and quotations.

In addition, PSIC saw iVoice™ as a very cost-effective way to service clients. Originally, it was estimated that 10 additional CSRs needed to be hired to service the volume of calls that PSIC was receiving. With iMessaging's 12-line system, multiple routine calls could be handled at one time, whereas a CSR can only accept one at a time. Ultimately, the ability for iVoice™ to handle 12 calls simultaneously allowed PSIC to hire fewer CSRs than originally anticipated.

Installation of the system hardware and phone line hookup was handled by Gerry Lieberwirth, PSIC's IT Specialist. "Hooking up iVoice™ to our AS/400 was like a slam dunk," states Lieberwirth. He encountered a few small problems with the PSIC phone system, but none at all with iVoice™.

The ball was then handed to PSIC's MIS Manager, Alan Oracion, for programming. It was decided that the IVR system would allow customers to do the following:

  • conduct a basic policy inquiry

  • determine the status of a policy – effective date, expiration date and renewal date

  • review payment history and payment due dates

  • pay policy premiums with a credit card

  • opt out to a CSR, when desired


In addition, if a customer inquired about a problem with a policy, such as a cancellation, the caller would be automatically transferred to a CSR.

After iVoice™ was tested in-house, it was time to introduce it to PSIC's customers via advertising and actual use. Much of this responsibility rested on the shoulders of Customer Service Representative Manager Mike D'Avello. "We just encountered the normal quirks when technology is introduced," D'Avello said. "Some customers didn't understand what IVR was or they thought it was a different department." D'Avello and the CSR staff know that McGraw's customers have always valued getting a live, responsive voice on the phone for account inquiries, so the staff remained patient while explaining the new offering to customers.

Now, customers really like the fact that they don't have to hold to obtain simple policy information or to make a credit card payment. In addition to this quick service, policy holders also value the ever-present option of exiting the IVR system and speaking with a live CSR. D'Avello feels that it is a "step in the right direction for McGraw." And, the numbers prove it!

McAllister saw that the use of the IVR, like any new technology offering, began slowly at first: only a few hundred calls went into the IVR system in the first month. As of January, 2003, of the 100,000 calls PSIC receives each month, 4,000 to 5,000 are handled by the IVR. D'Avello feels that if the call volume to the IVR continues to increase, iVoice™ should be handling double that amount by the end of the year.

Since the introduction of iVoice™, the roles and responsibilities of PSIC's staff haven't radically changed. Oracion has more responsibility in terms of the occasional minor update to the IVR system, but he stated that the iMessaging system is very stable and he hasn't encountered any problems. According to D'Avello, the role of the CSR has only been enhanced, making it much easier to provide each customer with the high level of service they've come to expect from McGraw.

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