NewLink Consulting, Toronto found: 29% of U.S. life policyholders lost contact with the agent/financial planner who had sold them the policy, and 41% if the policy was purchased from an agent/broker.

Guest blogger Mark Weishaar

An orphan can be defined as “One who lacks support, supervision or care”.
How many do you have in your CRM database? How many customers have simply become dormant and shuffled into an inactive or unassigned category?

In a recent conversation with my client from a major life insurance carrier, I was appalled to learn that her company had well over 100,000 orphaned policyholders. In insurance-speak, these are folks who originally purchased a policy from an agent, but were never re-assigned after that agent left the company.

Many industries have a similar category in their database. Inactive bank accounts, infrequent flyers, one-time visitors… the list goes on. It gets me thinking: how many organizations could use a shot in the bottom-line? This category represents a huge untapped asset:

  1. Orphans are never contacted. You have forgotten about them, and they have forgotten about you. How likely are they to ever upgrade or buy another product or service from you? 
  2. If your competition is effectively marketing – and you know they are – how many competing offers can your orphans resist? Retention rates suffer when customers are ignored. 

The ROI of Marketing to Orphaned Policyholders

Let’s put some dollars and sense behind a simple illustration exercise: 

With the potential for this scope of increased revenue, it makes no sense to me that so many insurance companies do not devote any attention to their orphaned policyholders. Political turf issues over account re-assignment? Possibly. “Don’t rock the boat” and “Let sleeping clients lie” mentality? Maybe. Inertia? Most likely. 

Case Study: A short while back, I worked with a major hotel chain to develop a multi-pronged marketing campaign. Our objective was to revitalize their “dormant” clients: those who had not booked a room within the previous 24 months. Of the many successful initiatives we launched, the highlight was going back to the dormant customers.

After modeling their data against the frequent guests and re-soliciting a predictive-modeled group with an offer, we generated an ROI of 1,090%!

Unheard of? Yes. But true. And I could predict similar successes in your own organization.

So take a look at your entire customer file. Find those pockets of orphaned customers who have been ignored for whatever reason. Develop a strategy to solicit them with a product offering using a predictive model-driven approach. The incremental revenue generation and low acquisition costs are likely to amaze you, and will demonstrate once again the truism that:

Your Best Customer is Your Current Customer.

Mark Weishaar is a veteran financial services direct marketer and senior executive delivering broad range of leadership responsibility, experience and accomplishment across brand strategy, marketing, loyalty programs, customer data analytics, distribution, CRM, and social media on a worldwide basis.  He has directed the sales & marketing of a wide variety of financial services products and programs and held senior level roles in start-ups and  Fortune 100 companies in direct marketing environments, and  traditional agent/advisor companies. He has a unique ability to analyze and develop actionable marketing and sales programs with measurable ROI improvements.
Want to chat with Mark? Reply to him here or leave a comment on the blog.


Who Do You Trust?

 notes in HealthLifePro, that Americans’ trust in advisors has declined. A study by Hearts & Wallets, Hingham, Mass titled “Trust-Building Practices: Updated Empirical Analysis of What Drives Trust,” gauged trust on a scale of one to ten (one signifies very little trust and ten very high trust.) The study’s findings:

  • Just one in five Americans fully trusted their financial advisor in 2012 – a four-point decline since 2010.
  • Those awarding their advisors 9 points declined from 18% in 2010 to 13% in 2012.
  • Those awarding their advisors 8 points declined from 21% in 2010 to 17% in 2012.

The most trusted advisor practices are full-service brokerage and insurance practices versus self-service brokerages and banks:

  • 74% rate  insurance and full-service brokerages a 9 or a 10 (37% each.)
  • Only 60% rate self-brokerages and banks a 9 or a 10.

What Drives Advisor Trust?

The top trust drivers of trust were ranked as follows:

  • improving investor understanding of how the provider earns its money (by a wide margin)
  • the perception that an advisor is unbiased
  • clear and understandable fees
  • responsive
  • understands and shares the client’s values
  • has made money for the client
  • has produced a “positive experience” for friends and family members.


Transparency, responsiveness, understanding the client’s values and putting the client’s interests above one’s own are all core to trust in an advisor.


Please Hold For Prompt Service…

 shared this on Time Business & Money.

A new poll commissioned by text-message service TalkTo shows that 53% of American consumers say that they spend 10 to 20 minutes on hold each and every week. How much does that add up to each year?

“This adds up to…13 hours annually spent waiting for a company that swears via automated message “we care about your business” to answer the darn phone.

Other findings of the survey:

  • 86% of consumers report being put on hold every time they call a business.
  • 48% believe the customer service representatives who answer phone calls are not helpful.

Lessons Learned? None

The data corroborates and amplifies the findings of previous polls cited by Tuttle. For  instance:

So, you’d think American customer service would work to clean up it’s act, and call for improved customer help lines, shortening wait times and providing more meaningful assistance, right?

Well, you’d be wrong.

The survey indicates instead that the solutions companies are considering are even worse than the original problem. Instead of listening to what customers really want, many companies are just buying into the more convenient notion that texting makes more sense than communicating with a real human being.  Stuart Levinson, CEO of TalkTo, an app for service request texting, is a case in point. He writes:

“This research shows how poorly the phone performs as a customer-service channel. Everyone’s calling less and texting more. It’s time for businesses to catch up with how customers want to interact with them.”

Really?  Tuttle cites data that demonstrates just the opposite:

Amazing. So customer service is not about the customer at all; it’s about lowering their expectations and insulating yourself from the voice of the customer.  As long as we all collude in lowering the bar for customer service, we can all cost cut our way to prosperity – on the backs of the customer.

In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. I’d say this provides a tremendous opportunity for a real thought leader to differentiate itself in the market.

Source: Oursocialtimes.com

Embracing Social Customer Service

Joshua March of  Conversocial points out that social customer service is  moving to the adopter stage with businesses increasingly benefiting from online customer service delivery, but he asks asks how many companies are actually practicing the delivery of exceptional social customer service.

The Ideal

 Research by SAP, Social Media Today and Pivot titled The Social Customer Service Conflict, examines the ideals and realities of social customer service in practice. Their research, based on The Social Customer Engagement Index, finds strong market enthusiasm:

  • 71% of businesses use social media for customer service
  • 88% report a positive impact on their business.

The Reality

Insufficient Resources: Still, while many companies are interested, most don’t yet believe that the social channels are a serious customer service route, on a par with email and phone, and fail to allocate significant resources to social customer care.

Of those surveyed:

  • 77.6% invested less than $50,000.

Joshua reminds us that first contact resolution is the key to customer satisfaction, but, without the right people in place to pick up social inquiries and deal with them to completion on the front line of social communication, the experience can just become more time consuming and frustrating for all involved.

Insufficient Process  (Poor Integration): Companies using social customer service seldom use it to its full potential.

  • Only 17.7% solve at least 25% of customer service issues online.
  • Almost 40% respond on an ad-hoc basis, but haven’t put a process in place.

Poor Response Times: The lack of investment and process show up in poor response times:

  • 32.5% of businesses response times take around 4 hours.
  • 30% of customers on Twitter expect an answer within 30 minutes.
  • 29% of customers on FB expect an answer in under 2 hours.

The results?

Like many initiatives that get implemented today, the implementation of customer service on social channels can become yet another “also ran” service that companies do because everyone else is doing it.  However, this approach gravely underestimates the risks. Adding a weak customer service channel can undermine your brand’s reputation.  Businesses have become far more customer-led than ever before.

The full Social Customer Service Conflict Infographic is available to view in full here.

Related Posts

CRM Can Reach a Higher Consciousness

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Strategic CRM For Dummies

Dick Lee, founder of  High-Yield Methodsdiscusses why CRM (Customer Relationship Management) is out of mind for most CEOs. He partly blames software vendors for positioning CRM as mere software, a tactical tool rather than an enterprise-wide business strategy. But even more fundamental, he believes that the true strategic vision for which CRM was originally intended, is “rooted in a world view that chases strategic CRM right off most radar screens.” What world view is that? One based on achieving customer-centricity.

3 Reasons for Customer-Centricity In The Age of The Consumer

Lee gives 3 compelling reasons why customer-centricity is more than a buzzword.

1. It’s A Buyers’ Market

According to Lee, many business leaders and journals remain stuck in a time warp of internally focused business strategies, rather than customer-centric ones. Lee cites as examples Business Week and The Wall Street Journal as indulging in wishful business thinking, speaking of “regaining pricing power,” for instance. And yet, the business environment has shifted fundamentally. Here are some of the environmental shifts that the market has taken:

Demographics: An aging population means a fundamental shift from accumulation phase buying to retirement spending

Shorter product cycle times and increased productivity are flooding markets with too many goods and services for markets to absorb.

Global market competition and online communities are creating a hyper-competitive environment in which only the toughtest companies can survive.

2. Customers Are Taking Charge

Customers are learning how to leverage their advantage in today’s buyer’s market. Social media allows them to take the microphone away from marketers and demand that marketers listen to them, rather than try to influence them:

Run the proposition that companies have to shut up and listen to their customers up the average corporate flagpole. You’ll get run out of Dodge. After all, how can you make next quarter’s numbers by listening? Gotta squeeze those customers for every nickel they’re worth—every month, every week, every day, every hour—to make this quarter’s goals. Who has time to worry about next quarter and the next and the next?

3.  Companies Have To Offer More To Stay Even

Customers are demanding you offer the best products and  service, or they’ll go elsewhere. This may seem unfair to companies, but, as Lee points out, the side with money to spend are the ones who determine what’s fair:

But CxOs are still fighting “unreasonable customer expectations” and demanding that customers pay them a “reasonable price.” Reasonable enough to support whopping CxO salaries. Wanna stand up in front of a team of your peers and tell them to do more and expect the same, or even less? Duck.

Strategic CRM To the Rescue

Companies are under increased shareholder pressure to perform. But how? Cost-cutting will soon run its course. Endless reorganization, which Lee realistically calls downsizing in disguise, is counter-productive. Hard Selling and marketing no longer work. The only option left is to align with customers.

The above video by Emailvision describes Strategic CRM as “marketing as if you only have only one.” Companies that have heard the message of Stragic CRM, and used it to their benefit include:

  • Promologistics: “We now feel confident about the promises that we make to our customers, who rely on our services to grow their businesses.”
  • Shoplet.com:  “[It] gave us the ability to create highly targeted campaigns, understand their effectiveness and highlight areas for improvement.”
  • Gazzar Wines: “We grew our sales by 20%…Our email marketing now engages customers with tailored product recommendations based on their purchase history and browsing profile.
You can download their success stories from Envision’s site here.


Strategic CRM means reframing CRM back to a strategic initiative that creates value for the company by delivering new value to customers. Customer relationship management isn’t just about data mining. It’s about building relationships with customers at every touchpoint, and that grows out of a central strategy of customer-centricity that permeates the entire enterprise. The companies that dominate in the Age of the Consumer will be the ones who respond to their customers’ beliefs and values.

Catch the Customer Completely Off Guard with Good Service

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Does Good Customer Service Pay?

 is co-founder of Seattle-based Kinesis, which helps companies plan and execute their customer experience strategies. He has written an interesting article titled A Guide to ROI in Customer Service.  This post summarizes Eric’s compelling thoughts on the subject.

Here’s the conundrum companies are facing:

Pros of Good Service:

  • Good service is an important value differentiator.
  • An abundance of literature finds that service can affect retention, spending, word-of-mouth endorsements and other customer activities that make a company more profitable.


  • Many companies with excellent service still suffer from poor financial performance.
  • Good service is expensive -requiring research, training, measurement and incentives to managers and employees.

So is good customer service worth the expense? What if we weigh the investment opportunities against the costs, comparing expected risks and returns? Unfortunately, many companies have not done a thorough job of calculating the ROI of customer service, and may not really be able to determine whether their money has been well spent, or, conversely, whether the money they save on using call centers overseas is really retaining enough business to even break even with well managed U.S. call centers.

The Larse Principle of Calculating ROI

According to Eric Larse, approaches to calculating service ROI appear to fall into two major types:

  • “Blind Faith” approach
  • “Rube Goldberg” approach
“Blind Faith” Approach
The Blind Faith approach proceeds on an unexamined premise that good service always leads to higher profits. According to Larse:Companies launch service crusades, making grand promises to their customers as they whip their staff into a frenzy of friendly service activity. They intone ritual phrases, like, “We’re dedicated to excellence,” and “The customer is number one.” And they contribute a substantial amount of money to the effort, confident that it is all going to a good cause.In the end, the miracle they had hoped for seldom appears. Customers may be more satisfied, but the expected rise in profitability rarely occurs. There may be profit changes, up or down, but it is devilishly difficult to figure out how much effect service quality had on the change.At this point many companies experience a crisis in faith and revert to their old practices: cost-cutting, reductions in staff, new ad campaigns. Poorer but wiser, they look back at their crusade and wonder how they could have been so naive.The “Service Machine”

The Rube Goldberg approach is “mechanistic:”

These folks don their white lab coats and attempt to build predictive models that explain the links between service attributes, customer satisfaction and profitability. They use statistical techniques to uncover correlations and coefficients and co-variation, revealing that a twelve-second reduction in average wait times will result in a one-point rise in customer satisfaction, which will turn into a half-cent increase in per-transaction revenue at a cost of a quarter of a penny, etc., etc.

These models can provide insights into

  • Understanding the associations among different service and profit factors
  • How service attributes interact with each other to influence customer perceptions.


  • Too many moving parts to function as a practical, day-to-day business tool.
  • Giving the appearance of being far more precise than they actually are: “Many companies have spent considerable effort and money constructing such models, only to find that their applicability is marginal and their useful lifespan limited.”

A third drawback that I have observed is that holding customer service account representatives to strict reporting standards and quality reviews creates misery in the workplace among those who should be the brand ambassadors for the company, which can have unintended ill effects.  An argument can be made that more judgement and empowerment is better than more rules, regulations, and criticism at making individual customer service representatives more effective in customer interactions.

The “Third Way” – A Balanced Approach

Larse holds that there is a need for an alternate model that is simple, practical and intuitive. It could be called the middle way between the two approaches: not as precise as the predictive models, but not treating service as sacrosanct. He characterizes it as follows:

The Third Way takes the view that service isn’t profitable because it’s good, it’s good because it’s profitable.

A 3-Step Approach to Doing Customer service right.

1. List customer behaviors that directly affect revenues or costs:

The company asks itself, “What, specifically, do we want customers to do more of or less of?” Attitudes (such as satisfaction) and feelings (such as delight) aren’t included  –  only measurable, observable behaviors, such as, “use our service more often,” “call our support line less often,” “purchase more items on an average visit to the store,” and “return merchandise less frequently.”

2. Extract the items that can be influenced through service interactions: including service interactions that involve employees. ATMs, web sites, unmanned kiosks, etc.

The company asks itself, “What can employees (or machines or web sites) do more of or less of, or do differently, to influence how customers act?” If it can’t be measured, if it can’t be trained (or programmed) or if it has no likely effect on measurable customer behaviors that effect profit, it is removed it from the list.

3. Determine the specific knowledge and skills needed to provide the service that will affect desired customer behavior:

  • Train managers and staff
  • Implement incentives and metrics.

The company can then calculate the financial impact of incremental changes to each item:

“What would be the effect on revenue of increasing the average customer purchase by one dollar? What would be effect on costs if the volume of complaints to call centers were reduced by five percentage points? It quickly becomes clear that even a small change in some customer behaviors can have a substantial financial impact. It also becomes clear which service changes will have the biggest effect.”

Implement and Fine Tune

These steps comprise the initial planning process. Ongoing experimentation will lead to a better understanding of the right implementation strategies and tactics for the company.

Through experimentation, the company can identify the most promising service investments and test them on a small scale, using an iterative process that compares service units (stores, call centers, etc.) using test and control groups. The result: a reliable formula for ROI will emerge that enables the company to make informed decisions on which service improvements it should invest in  –  or whether it should invest in service improvements at all. Important parameters to consider include:

  • The Magnitude of Change: 
How much change can the company expect to create? Can complaints be reduced by 1%, 5%, 10%? Will average purchase amounts increase by 50 cents? Ten dollars?
  • Interaction among different variables: Aggressive up-selling may lead to a 10% increase in the average transaction amount, but it could also lead to a 2% increase in customer turnover, which might counteract the benefit.

In summary, The Third Way Approach enables a company to identify the customer behaviors it is profitable to change and to determine the general effect of each behavior on revenue or cost, and the dollar value of an incremental change in each behavior. This puts the company in a better position to develop a strategy for promoting the customer service activities that are likely to influence changes in customer behaviors by implementing training, measurement and rewards.

Related Kinesis Posts:

Acculturation Model

The U.S. Hispanic Market

Tony Malaghan, CEO of Arial International in University Place, Washington (info@arialinternational.com)  points out the importance of the U.S. Hispanic market:

Huge: Hispanic population is projected to nearly triple, from 46.7 million to 132.8 million from 2008 to 2050. In other words:

  • The U.S. Hispanic population share will double, from 15% to 30%.
  • Thus, nearly one in three U.S. residents would be Hispanic.

Diverse: U.S. Hispanics come from more than 22 different countries and, although there are cultural similarities between the sub-groups, there are also differences in attitudes and behaviors that marketers  need to acknowledge to best serve the interests of these consumers.

Language Use Differences: The use of Spanish is of course an obvious difference between the U.S. Hispanic market and the mass market. However, the use of Spanish vs. English varies within the Hispanic markets. Some Hispanics  only speak Spanish; others choose to speak Spanish over English; others prefer English; and others almost exclusively speak English.

Cultural Differences: An important element often overlooked with respect to the U.S. Hispanic market is the differences that exist between the sub-groups that comprise this segment of the market. These differences include country of origin, differences in Spanish use and dialect spoken, differences in food, music, holidays celebrated, etc.

Acculturation Differences: The process of acculturation has a major impace on these market segments.

A Multidimensional Process

Malaghan cites a 2004 dissertation by Cecilia Alvarez from Florida International University titled The Acculturation of Middle Income Hispanic Households  in which she notes that acculturation is a multidimensional process. Individuals change along various dimensions of social functioning. Alvarez defines consumer acculturation as:

A dynamic selective process generated by the contact of a consumer with a different consumer cultural orientation via acculturation agents or facilitators, through which the consumer adapts to the new culture. This adaptation is expected to be reflected in the consumers’ behavior, affect and values.

Acculturation generates changes in three levels of functioning:

  • Behavioral – includes behaviors like language use, customs, food consumption.
  • Affective – includes emotions that have cultural connections; for example, the individuals’ feelings towards their country of origin or towards the U.S.
  • Cognitive – includes individuals’ belief systems and fundamental values

So, how does acculturation affect consumer behavior and the approach to targeting and servicing this segment of the market? Let’s look at the 3 levels of acculturation.

Why Acculturation Matters

  • Past generations of immigrants had their children leave old world customs behind for the process of assimilation.
  • Acculturation is the process of incorporating or acquire a new culture without foregoing another one.
  • Hispanics do not “assimilate”, they “acculturate” without letting go of customs and/or language

3 Levels of Acculturation

Hispanic Market Segmentation

The three segments by Acculturation Levels are:

  • Non-Acculturated: Persons that only navigate within the Latino culture. Most of them have recently immigrated to the U.S. and prefer to speak Spanish
  • Acculturated: Persons born in the U.S. of Hispanic descent. They prefer to speak English and can navigate into the Latino culture
  • Semi-Acculturated: People that can navigate in both cultures.

How fast will the market acculturate?

The speed at which this will take place depends on these three major factors:

  • Time: the longer they live in the US, the longer they are exposed to a new culture and are able to incorporate it into their everyday lives.
  • Education: the higher their education level, the easier the understanding of another culture will be.
  • Socio economic status in country of origin: the higher the socio economic status they enjoyed in their country of origin, the higher the likelihood that they have been exposed to other cultures, thus enabling a faster and smoother transition

A Rapidly Evolving Market

Hispanic Market Segments Size

Situational Acculturation: It is important to bear in mind that acculturation can also be “situational.” Companies truly interested in segmenting the Hispanic market can further defining the situational acculturation levels of their consumers. Some people can be considered unnaculturated/bilingual/acculturated 100% of the time while others can go through these different states throughout the day.

For instance, a person can be fully acculturated at work where he or she behaves and consumes products very much in line with the general population, but at home speak Spanish. Yet he may watch both Hispanic and English-speaking television and consume non Hispanic products.

Suburban Hispanics: A Consumer Dynamics study from Acxiom Corporation shows that the Hispanic segments are changing rapidly. For one thing, the rapid expansion of Hispanics into American suburbs presents opportunities for marketers who can better understand the rich cultural diversity and purchasing attitudes of this segment.  The study reveals:

  • Hispanic suburban expansion is projected to continue.
  • The Hispanic market encompasses four distinct Hispburbanite groups.
  • Marketers have above average growth opportunities in areas with high concentrations of Hispanics.
  • Marketers should segment this culturally diverse group for maximum marketing impact.

Generational Factors: Hispanic Millennials bring a new set of characteristics to the mix. Since Latinos will account for more than 80% of the growth in the population of 18- to 29-year-olds over the next few years, they are now a key demographic for marketers, who will need to take into account the rapid changes under way in the composition and characterstics of the population of the Hispanic youth.

  • English Language TV Preference: Since they are for the most part are now the children, grandchildren or even great-grandchildren and beyond of Latino immigrants, 73% of 18- to 29-year-old Latinos watched English-only television or a combination of English and Spanish language television in the past seven days, and only 4% watched Spanish-language television alone.
  • Highly Connected: Hispanic millennials are nearly 66% more likely to connect via mobile than non-Hispanic Caucasians, and nearly twice as likely to own a tablet such as an iPad. They are just as likely as other millennials to be heavy Facebook users but almost twice as likely to use YouTube.
  • English Language Reading and Online Preference: When Millennial Latinos read magazines or visit websites, English predominates. They are more likely to read English-language magazines alone then they are to look into a combination of English and Spanish magazines (28% vs. 21%). Online, 18- to 29-year-old Latinos are even more likely to choose to visit English-language websites alone rather than both English- and Spanish-language sites (38% vs. 25%).
  • Close Cultural Ties: Still, Hispanic millennials maintain close ties with their cultural heritage. The Pew Hispanic found that among the U.S.-born children of Hispanic immigrants, country of origin is still important. Hispanic millennials are also more likely to still be living in their parents’ home due to the economy and delayed marriage and children trends, as well as the fact that Latinos in general are the most likely to live in multi-generation homes.

Marketers targeting Hispanics therefore need to develop complex and sophisticate marketing strategies to reach this very complex market.

Marketing and Service Implications

Essentially, the more exposed Hispanics are to behavior and beliefs of the host country, the more similar they become in consumption patterns of the mass market. However, Alvarez reminds us that acculturation can be bilinear, which means that a segment of the market may choose to be Hispanic with respect to certain behaviors and beliefs and in sync with the U.S. mass market in others. This presents marketers and customer service managers with challenges and opportunities to serve their unique needs.


Generational Segmentation: One way to segment the U.S. Hispanic market is by generation: there are new immigrants, first-generation U.S. , second-generation, etc. This approach assumes that the longer a person has been in the U.S. , the more their lifestyle choices, and response to marketing stimuli, and purchasing decisions should reflect those of the mass market consumer.

Multidimensional Segmentation: This fails to factor in the bilinear multidimensional aspect, resulting in the 3 levels of acculturation: low, high, and bicultural. Developing more in-depth segmentation categories allowing for the bilinear multidimensional influences, coupled with research, will provide marketers an added advantage over companies that segment solely by the generational approach.

Customer Service

Trans-adaption Capabilities: Once the Marketing Department has advised Customer Service where a consumer falls anywhere on a continuum from new immigrant (unacculturated) to bicultural/multicultural (acculturated), they may choose to speak Spanish, English, or switch between the two on service calls.

Bilingual Capabilities: To effectively serve the segment, companies need to deveop a bilingual customer service infrastructure. Best practices, cited by Malaghan, provide the following:

  • Testing language skills to recruit competent and fully bilingual staff
  • Bilingual training and certification for appropriate “Business Spanish”
  • Certification of bilingual call center operations to benchmark and delivering services to best practice standards

Case Study: Banks Face Acculturation Challenges

Latino banks spend more than a year teaching their underserved Hispanic customers how to use the ATM machines because most of their customers have never used one. The bank needs to play a role in acculturating them into American society.

The following chart shows some key differences in the bank services that different Hispanic customers would be inclined to use, by acculturation level.

Hispanic Market Segment Characteristics

Snap! principle of Hispanic Market Segmentation:

In targeting and retaining U.S. Hispanic customers, companies must be willing to 1) invest in the market intelligence required for successful segmentation and 2) provide the servicing infrastructure to gain a competitive advantage in these segments.