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Different Approaches to Similar Solutions

Posted by Mark Fallon on Oct 19, 2016 5:02:00 AM

new_ideas.jpgRecently, I had the opportunity to lead a workshop at the Operational Excellence in Insurance Summit in Hartford, CT. The summit brought together executives, directors and managers from across the insurance industry to discuss different ways of meeting challenges in a disruptive business climate.

I was joined by Jeff Heigert of Lexmark to moderate a session entitled "Managing Customer Communications: Outside and Inside the Mailbox". Our attendees included a Chief Information Officer, Operations Managers, and Directors of Continuous Improvement. In addition to varied responsibilities, the class included people from the United States, Canada, Bermuda and South Africa.

We began by talking about the traditional paper workflow for communicating with customers and the many changes that have been introduced over the last several decades – scanning, OCR, email, customer portals and mobile devices. Customers expect more choices for receiving and sending information, and companies can improve efficiencies with the right applications.

But new technologies aren’t enough. Organizations need to redesign their communications and processing workflows to maximize the benefits. With that in mind, we broke the class up into 3 teams and addressed the following case study:

The Hypothetical Insurance Company is launching a new product that is only available to existing insureds. Applicants must include copies of:

  • birth certificates
  • driver’s license or other government issued photo identification
  • bank statement or 1099
Develop a process map that covers:

  • Sending marketing material to policy holders via their channel of choice
  • Follow-up with non-responsive prospects via an alternative communication method
  • Receive applications from policy holders via their channel of choice
  • Review application for completion of all required fields
  • Track supporting documentation submission
  • Application approval
  • Sending confirmation of approval/denial
  • Sending new policy packet
  • Sending updated invoice

As I moved among the tables, I was struck by the very different approaches taken by each group. One team dived right into a draft flowchart. Another applied the “Agile Project Management” methodology – mapping the major steps, and then focusing on the details of each step. And one team spent the first 10 to 15 minutes talking about the problem, coming to an agreement on a definition – before working on the solution.

The process maps reflected more differences in styles – swim lanes, event-driven charts and a combination of the two. At the end of class, each team shared their tactics and their solution. It was enlightening to hear the dialogue among professionals who face these problems in real-life every day.

While the approaches and the maps were different, the end solutions were remarkably similar. In the discussions, there were several common themes:

  • Segmentation – How do your customers want to receive and send information? Go beyond age and consider culture.
  • Alternatives – How do you track and measure the success of the different communication methods? What works?
  • Cross-communication – It’s important to think of the impact on sales, agents, operations and finance. Bring them into the conversation
  • First drafts are just that – first drafts. You can’t come up with a “ready for prime time” workflow in 20 minutes, or an hour. Use the first draft to begin the process, implement new ideas and then continually refine.

In most classes, my role is that of the instructor, sharing my ideas with the attendees. This time, I had the benefit of learning from the students. Being reminded that there isn’t just “one right way” to solve a problem. That bringing in a diversity of backgrounds and responsibilities into the conversation improves the overall solution. And that listening to others helps us learn and grow.

I took the input from the 3 groups and created a 4th version of the process map – which I’m making available to everyone as a PDF. No catches, no forms, no emails – just click on this link.

Do you have recommendations on how to improve the workflow? I’d love to hear from you! Please include your suggestions in the comments section.

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