Siebel Lands Medicare Call Centers

If you're a Medicare member relying on the public healthcare agency to take care of you in your golden years, chances are you already know what it's like to be put on hold for long periods while checking on the status of claims. And as Baby Boomers edge toward retirement age, Medicare call centers are threatened to be overrun even more.

That's why the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) decided to pour $18 million into efforts to arm its 3,500 customer service representatives at more than 70 call centers nationwide with state-of-the-art CRM software. "Our goal is to provide callers with information that is accurate, reliable and understandable," said Neal Denion, director of the division of call center operations at CMS, in a statement. "By implementing a standardized desktop application, we are taking the first of many steps that we expect will result in a measurable improvement to the customer service we provide to our callers."

Two years in the planning, this was no small task. Getting funding for the project was the first hurdle. The second was choosing CRM software that was flexible enough to integrate data from multiple proprietary mainframes that were still being tapped by dumb terminals. CMS brought in Booz, Allen and Hamilton to do the preliminary assessment and contracted with integrator Seurat as its primary implementer. What about the software? Siebel eHealthcare 7. After years of dealing with legacy systems, proprietary applications and even spaghetti coding, "we wanted a system with a lot of flexibility and expandability," says Carol Davis, project manager for Siebel desktop projects at CMS.

The massive project is currently in designing stages, with a pilot planned for later this summer and total rollout slated for late 2003. Once completed, the system will enable customer service representatives to have access at their fingertips to all of the claims databases and other relevant member information. And it's not all about customer service, either. "We expect some savings," says Davis. "Right now, we have multiple contractors maintaining multiple desktops."

For Siebel, the CMS win is a major lift to the industry leader's push into two large, old-school-vertical markets. "It's certainly a top win for us," says Ann Klein, general manager for Siebel healthcare. "CMS is a launching pad for healthcare and government." Other Siebel healthcare customers include Cigna and Healthcare Service Corp. "Typically, people are not very happy with healthcare customer service," she says. "Our solution automates a lot of these pieces."

Kevin Scott, senior analyst of customer management strategies at AMR Research, says Siebel shouldn't count on its good health just yet. Sure, the CMS deal will ultimately enable Siebel to unearth valuable information about the inner workings of legacy call centers, as well as the art of deal-making in the political hotbeds of government agencies, he says. And such a big customer win helps validate Siebel eHealthcare 7 in the market. "But with Siebel's aggressive goals of getting customers to Siebel 7, it's going to take a lot of implementations like these," Scott says. "The CMS project helps give Siebel a point of proof or a point of failure, whichever comes first."

Tom Kaneshige also writes for, the Web site for CRM Magazine

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