Customer service can be performed and measured in many ways. In this month's cover story, the nuances of customer relationship management-performance monitoring and analysis-play a big role in insurer's success. Being able to provide high levels of service with each and every customer contact-whether in person, on the phone or online-is sure to drive revenue and retention.How your company manages customer service may be the result of definable metrics, such as demographic studies, formal assumptions about customer behavior, anticipation of future requirements, etc. It may also involve a bit of guesswork. The results of your measurement should prove unequivocally that you know your customer.

In fact, an understanding of your customer's requirements is fundamental to your company's success. Back in the mid-90s I interviewed an executive at Wall Data, an Irvine, Calif., software company. Like most vendors, he was wildly excited about his company's product. He explained that he had used his product to create a "virtual circus" for his five-year old son, complete with clowns, jugglers and elephants on parade. He provided his son with microwave popcorn, and the two listened and watched as the circus unfolded-on his father's laptop computer.

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