AAA Carolinas Improves Customer Service with SOA

AAA Carolinas has about 900 employees across North and South Carolina, serving 1.5 million residents. For years, the company processed all of its customer information through an AS/400-based insurance policy system, manually pushing “a lot of paper” through AAA Carolinas, says Harry Johns, the company’s manager of insurance information technologies. The company printed out the customer data and hand-carried it to employees to process. It often took weeks for new information to ripple through the system.

The paper-heavy system affected customer retention and hiked AAA Carolinas’ expenses. The old way wasn’t working for the company, so it tapped into service-oriented architecture to eliminate the paper workflow.

“We wanted to eliminate processes [and] we’re trying not to kill as many trees,” John says.

AAA Carolinas recently implemented IBM WebSphere integration middleware, iSeries hardware and a document imaging and management Web application from RJS Software Systems, an IBM partner, to build a paper-less processing system. The system features Web services to expose the AS/400-based insurance policy system to a new Web-based application. “We don’t have to invent the wheel, but we can change the order the spokes are in,” John says.

The company’s six-member IT staff also re-engineered the user interface from a green screen to browser. The paper-based system required the IT staff to install software on employees’ desktops, and now employees use their Web browsers to access records. AAA Carolinas employees cross-reference customer information, creating cross-promotional marketing opportunities for their customers who use one or more services, for example, offering insurance discounts to customers who carry multiple policies and travel discounts for members who buy an insurance policy.

AAA Carolinas saved about $25,000 in document handling costs it would have spent to store paper records. It now takes days, rather than weeks, to process customer information through the system. More important, AAA Carolinas also experienced a 60-percent spike in customer retention. Its employees now take 25-percent less time to process customers’ requests, such as changes to insurance policies.

In the coming months, Johns says the system will expand beyond the insurance department to the entire organization. “We were the guinea pigs to prove the system works,” he says.

About the Author

Kathleen Ohlson is senior editor at Application Development Trends magazine.