April 24, 2014

Leveraging to Win

Leveraging to Win

Business process outsourcing has become increasingly more popular throughout the past decade. In fact, more than 250 leading insurance organizations now rely on BPO services to help the, achieve profitable growth. As the statistics show, BPO is more than just a growing trend – it’s a highly leveraged strategy for the modern insurance organization.

That’s because more than 70 percent of professionals in the insurance industry have seen their workload expand over the past three years. Due in part to a changing market, increased competition, growing carrier requirements and more, insurance organization employees are now facing heavier workloads than ever before.

[Download the Infographic]

Additionally, companies are often failing to manage this increasing workload. Less than 30 percent of professionals in the insurance industry, for example, saw a reduction in their workload after implementing a new technology that promised to provide increased productivity. Those who hesitantly committed to BPO – by only outsourcing certain low-level tasks, for example – saw similar lacking results. As a result of this, the vast majority of insurance organizations still spend between 20 and 30 percent of their revenue on contextual processing work, giving them no value-adding activity in return for that investment.

BPO services can help to reverse that trend. “Level 1“ outsourcing services – which focus on offering support for specific tasks – can offer up to 60 percent in savings per task. “Level 2“ outsourcing services, which handle complete functions and processes, can increase in-office productivity by up to 20 percent, and can improve margins by up to 40 percent. Finally, there’s “Level 3“outsourcing, which can offer operational transformation. Such an outsourcing service will identify and address wasteful activity, inefficient processes and underutilized staff across an entire office – potentially boosting productivity by more than 25 percent, and profit margins by more than 50 percent.

[Download the Infographic]

Excellence in Practice… Again!

ASTD Logo

We are thrilled to announce that ReSource Pro’s Learning and Development department in Qingdao, China has recently been recognized for their Insurance Level 1 Program. The program has been selected to receive an American Society for Training and Development Excellence in Practice citation in the Career Development Category for the 2013 award year.

As the ASTD states, “Awards are being presented for proven practices that meet a demonstrated need, have appropriate design values, are aligned with other performance improvement initiatives, and deliver sustained, clear, and measurable results for their organization. Citations are being presented for practices that exhibit strong design and evaluation strategies and with time are expected to show sustained and measurable impact.”

 

 

The American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) is the world’s largest association dedicated to professional training and development. ASTD members are found in 100 countries (www.astd.org).

How the North Pole is Like Your Insurance Business

The North Pole is Like Your Insurance BusinessOn the same night each year, one individual fulfills the mission of his business. This illustrious night is the same every year; the same bitter cold, the same mach-speeds, and the same focus and determination. Although this single night delivers on the mission, it isn’t any one night that allows the mission of his business to be fulfilled; it’s a year round effort, composed of many variables and moving parts. You may have come to know this individual as Nick, or more formally, Saint Nicholas, aka Santa Claus, and I’m here to tell you that your insurance business is more like his business than you realize.

Your insurance organization, be it a retail agency, an MGA or a carrier, has some major similarities. It is focused on delivering on its mission, the same way Santa is focused on fulfilling his own – to bring joy to the children of the world by delivering toys across the planet in a single night. For instance, renewal dates are a singular day in time, but best practice agencies know that there is a year of work and preparation that comes before the renewal.

While missions may be boiled down to concise statements, they’re always much more complicated than that. Saint Nick isn’t just responsible for the delivery, he needs to know who’s getting what, what order to make his deliveries, what weather patterns to avoid, and I haven’t even mentioned building the toys! It’s the same for your business. Delivering excellent customer service, for example, isn’t the result of saying, “Hey, we’re going to give great customer service!” It may start that way in theory, but when put into practice, all those other variables begin to surface; phone calls from customers, missing information, errors and omissions, system limitations, data integrity issues, and on and on — and before you know it, providing excellent customer service has gone out the window. This leaves your people strictly focused on finishing the work necessary to get out the door at the end of the day to be with their friends and families.

What can we learn from the way Santa Claus runs his organization?

He may be a magical character, but Santa faces the same challenges as you. He does, however, have many more years’ experience than the rest of us, considering his ability to remain old, stay overweight, eat an atrocious diet of candy and carbs, and yet continue to run an efficient North Pole operation as far back as recorded history. His experience has taught him that if all his people aren’t aligned and focused on the same goal, he won’t be successful. Furthermore, he knows that his ability to execute to perfection on one night each year is the culmination of an entire year’s work.

The 3 Components of North Pole Productivity

The North Pole, as an organization, starts with Strategy. What is the mission of the organization? What are its business goals and targets? Santa knows that without a clearly defined strategy and buy-in from all his elves and reindeer, his business would fail, leaving children all over the world in a state of misery on Christmas morning. With a mission that’s based on bringing joy to the children of the world, Saint Nick cannot let this happen, and he starts by setting measurable goals and targets to generate a coherent strategy.

The 2nd of the 3-pronged support system of the North Pole is an often overlooked element in most insurance businesses, but Santa’s secret is knowing that it may just be the most crucial to success – Process. It starts on December 26th, the process of evaluating and documenting the behavior of the approximately 2 billion children of the world – and you thought you had a lot of data to deal with! Without a streamlined process for collecting this information and keeping it up to date, he wouldn’t know what kind of inventory to create for the big day the following year. The next piece of the process is synthesizing this analysis of behavior into work orders for his production department. The elves, making up the majority of the population at the North Pole, must have accurate targets for production, or else they’ll end up with leftover inventory, or even worse, not enough to deliver on the mission executed the night of December 25th! Finally, the most critical part of process for the North Pole is production of the deliverable – toys. The elves have clearly defined roles and responsibilities, with well-documented processes and procedures for executing their roles to perfection. Without this clarity of duty, the elf workshops would break down, as materials would be missing and toys would be built differently by different elves. This would result in the production of killer robots with Barbie heads, teddy bears stuffed with rocks, and Red Ryder BB guns that backfire and shoot your eye out!

The final piece of alignment that follows strategy and process is Execution. Santa’s got his strategy and he’s got well defined and documented process, now he’s got to make sure that he, his elves and reindeer can execute. Every elf in the organization goes through training with senior elves where their specific role and various responsibilities are clearly communicated. They are provided documentation to re-enforce the understanding of their duties, and to act as a reference during execution, like making sure killer robots get the killer robot heads. Reindeer have been taught to navigate the skies to find the best possible routes to each destination on Santa’s list, and they’ve been trained so well that they fly in unison with one another the same way birds naturally flock together. If even one of the reindeer did not have the training and resources available to execute properly, good ‘ol Saint Nick could end up free falling into the Atlantic!

With his operation running in complete alignment in regards to Strategy, Process, and Execution, Santa continues to enjoy his reign atop the “children’s joy” ladder. If you seek the dynastic success of Santa’s North Pole operation for your insurance organization, take a step back from the daily grind and ask yourself, “Is my organization aligned across the three pillars of Strategy, Process, and Execution?”

Trashing Paper Apps – Digital Producers Move into the Future

Technology enabled producerLast week our very own Andy Niver, Director of Products & Business Development, conducted a webinar around using technology to improve the submission process.

Submissions processes can often touch 4 to 5 different people and take days to complete. Incomplete submissions require following up with the client to collect missing information. Following up for information can be a very expensive step in the process (How much does missing information cost you?).

ReSource Pro’s App Pro is an easy to use iPad or tablet application. Users enter data into ReSource Pro’s standardized forms or can create their own. Enter information with the built in keyboards or hand write the information with a stylus or finger tip. App Pro recognizes your handwriting strokes and converts it into neat text. Easily select dates, check boxes and radio buttons.

App Pro reminds you about mandatory fields and creates calculation to eliminate human error. Built in validation rules, preventing users from moving forward without critical information, eliminate the endless cycle of following up for information. Submitted forms can be sent directly to your service team in a .pdf or Excel file form.

Click here to watch the webinar and learn more! Contact us if you have any questions about App Pro.

Strategies for Boosting Office Morale

Boost office moraleNo matter how motivated your employees are, there will be times when their morale dips far below standards. It’s easy for the day-to-day grind to get to anyone – especially if they’re heavily invested in their work. Excelling is stressful, which is why the most successful companies always invest in keeping their employees comfortable, relaxed and very positive. Listed below are just a few ways you can get your team feeling better about their work, no matter what’s troubling them.

1. Recognize individual employees

It’s easy for the executives and top managers at a company to think about their organization as a collection of departments, rather than a collection of employees. However, by recognizing individual employees for their work – whether it’s through a promotion, a simple notation during a company meeting or any other form of accolade – you can give your workers both a confidence boost and an ideal to strive for.

2. Eliminate unnecessary and time-consuming tasks

Another way to boost the morale at your office is by getting rid of the tasks that your employees dislike doing. Data entry is an example: employees at insurance organizations spend a significant portion of their day entering information into spreadsheets, documents, and systems. Their expertise isn’t required for such tasks, and that alone can be enough to demoralize them.

If your office is able to outsource operations work and optimize workflows, your staff will be able to focus on the assignments that they’re best suited for. They’ll no longer feel like their time is being wasted on menial labor. Instead, they’ll be energized by the fact that they can dedicate the majority of their time to things that challenge them. That will help to increase morale, as well as increase productivity – and all of that will contribute to decreasing employee expense.

3. Offer opportunities for additional training

Employees love nothing more than an opportunity to expand their skill set. By offering to subsidize their entry into night classes related to your industry, or any other form of training program, you can help them to do so. They’ll be charged by the experience, and they’ll be bringing back skills that they hadn’t possessed when you initially hired them. That’s an investment that can pay off for your business very quickly.

4. Have a night out

This is the easiest entry on the list to complete, but it can also be one of the most effective. By having a company party – or even just by paying for a night out for each individual department – the managers at an office can give their employees a chance to socialize, while simultaneously displaying appreciation for the team’s effort. The evening itself will help the workers at your office to get to know each other better as well, and that will help things run more smoothly during office hours.

In general, any step you can take to increase the morale of your workers will pay off in many ways: they’ll be happier, and your organization will experience even more success as a result.

Is your service staff spending too much time processing?

processing paperwork

 

According to the 2013 Insurance Operations Best Practices Survey, conducted by ReSource Pro Analytics in conjunction with Insurance Journal, service staff members indicated they are spending most of their time on back office processing tasks instead of providing proactive client-facing services that the customer places values on.

According to the survey, service employees are spending between 51-75% of their time processing or transacting data yet the majority of survey respondents indicated service employees should ideally spend 25-50% of their time processing or transacting data.

Reviewing the survey results, coupled with recently achieving a certified Lean Six Sigma Black Belt designation, I have been reminded of the value of process improvement and Lean within our industry.

To begin addressing the challenge of how the time of service staff is spent, here are five helpful process improvement philosophies:

1. Lean methodology

Often misunderstood to mean “cutting,” lean methodology in actuality is growth focused strategy, it is about being effective and efficient.

The value of Lean in insurance operations is:

  • increased speed
  • improved quality
  • enhanced customer satisfaction

And ultimately, cost reduction in the delivery of our products and services that the client values. This focus will help to attract and retain more clients.

2. Continuous improvement

Many of our clients expect that process improvement efforts must always big and disruptive. However, Lean methodology suggests that organizations experience the most sustainable and meaningful results from process improvement initiatives when a mindset of continuous improvement is adopted.

Lean defines continuous improvement as “incremental improvement of products, processes, or services over time, with the goal of reducing waste to improve workplace functionality, customer service, or product performance.”

3. The“Deming Cycle”

It is important to first understand the issue at hand prior to jumping to a solution. In addition, the best solution is not fully discovered with the initial solution for many process improvement initiatives so piloting the changes can reduce disruption.

A project management best practice for process improvement is the four phases of the “Deming Cycle”:

  1. Plan – identify and analyze the problem.
  2. Do -create a potential solution and begin testing.
  3. Check – measure the effectiveness of the solution, determine if improvements can be made and/or if another solution should be explored.
  4. Act – implement the improved solution fully.

After step four is completed, the cycle should be repeated to ensure continuous improvement.

4. Quick wins

Again the key is incremental change, not all process improvement initiatives have to be a “big bang.”

Projects that are large undertakings can be daunting and result in procrastination. In practice, we have seen quick wins benefit organizations because they manageable and allow them to get started.

We define quick wins as items that are:

  • relatively easy to implement
  • would have a meaningful impact
  • are not reliant on broader organizational changes or process improvements

5. Team involvement

A concern that many of our clients share is that the leadership team does not have the time to focus on process improvement.

By design, Lean is not intended to be a burden of the organizational leaders. Leaders should set the tone and expectation for process improvement efforts but the most successful results come when the staff is empowered and expected to regularly improve the processes they use.

 

Are you ready to improve your processes to redistribute the time of the service staff to directly interact with clients? 

 

We do not believe that you have to be a Lean Six Sigma expert to benefit from the philosophy of process improvement.  However, from our experience Lean methodology can give you a common language and toolset to begin becoming a process excellence organization. A few valuable resources and tools to get you started include:

  1. Follow the Learner: The Role of a Leader in Creating a Lean Culture by Sami Bahri – a personal story of learning how to apply Lean principles to a dental practice. This is a quick read but the content is engaging and easy to follow for application.
  2. iSixSigma – a Lean Six Sigma focused website that offers variety of resources including: toolsets, articles, information and a community of practitioners.
  3. Lean.org – similar to iSixSigma, a Lean education focused website offering toolset, articles, etc.
  4. Lean Cheat Sheet – a quick reference guide to the basics of Lean

Podcast: Closing the Producer Activity Gap

According to the 2013 Insurance Operations Best Practices Survey, conducted by ReSource Pro Analytics and Insurance Journal, producers and service staff aren’t spending their time the way they think they should.

The Productivity GapProducers time spent servicing accounts

83% of survey respondents said that producers should be spending less than a quarter of their time servicing or troubleshooting accounts; yet only 30% respondents are actually spending less than a quarter of their time servicing or troubleshooting accounts. The remaining 70% of respondents report producers are spending over a quarter of their time servicing and troubleshooting, keeping them from selling.

Service employees find themselves in a similar position. 60% of respondents say that service staff should spend over half their time directly interacting clients; yet only 28% of respondents are able to spend more than half their time interacting with clients.

The Opportunity

According to ReSource Pro CEO Dan Epstein, the findings in the survey represent “a huge opportunity to improve productivity.” Patrick Armstrong, Vice President of Business Development, offers a means of closing the gap: “an agency can… create a process that makes it very easy for the producer to rely on the service staff to do what the service staff does best… it starts with having a process and then managing the adherence to the process.

Questions and Answers

Dan Epstein and Patrick Armstrong sat down with Andrew Simpson of Insurance Journal to further discuss this productivity gap and how to close it. Listen to the podcast here

The Results are in on Insurance Operations Best Practices

Insurance Operations best practices chart: Over the last three years, the volume of clerical work has increased.

In January 2013, ReSource Pro founded ReSource Pro Analytics, the insurance industry research and analytics arm of ReSource Pro.  ReSource Pro Analytics is focused on deepening understanding of operations efficiency and effectiveness and the drivers of productivity in the insurance industry.

In April 2013, ReSource Pro Analytics partnered with Insurance Journal to conduct a survey to better understand approaches to, and perspectives on, insurance operations management by principals, managers, and employees within the retail, wholesale, and MGA segments of the industry.

We invite you to check out the survey results and how you compare with these industry benchmarks!

Click here to download a free copy of the report.

Check back often for more insights on Insurance Operations best practices.

 

 

Managing by the Numbers

Managing by the Numbers - IAC

In early November ReSource Pro hosted our second Innovation Advisory Council event of the year. The theme was “managing by the numbers”. Speakers Jag Dalal and Ashwin Rangan shared insights and experiences about successfully managing by the numbers.

The key to successfully managing by the numbers is to first know what we want to achieve. Once we know our goal we can then determine the metric needed to measure our success. “We start with a goal to determine the metric and use the metric to achieve the goal.”

Not all metrics are created equal

There are several dimensions to a good metric. In order for a metric to have meaning it must be relevant to the goal. You need to laser focus on your desired outcomes then determine the metrics and processes around them. If the goal is to write profitable accounts, the total number of quotes issued is probably not the best metric for achieving this goal.

A metric needs a reference point – one measurement alone doesn’t tell us much. The measurement must be compared with something else such as time.

A good metric is:

  • reliable
  • credible
  • understandable
  • available
  • abuse-proof

Measure carefully

There are two different kinds of measurements that are crucial to monitoring your progress to a goal:

  • in-process measures
  • results measures

In-process measures ensure your process is under control and performing the way you intended. They act as checkpoint and keep you and your team on target.

Results measures are output results. Most of us use results measures — we keep tabs on the final numbers.  However, if the end result isn’t what we expected we might not know why if we aren’t in-process measuring.

The cost of quality

There is a price tag on quality and it is dependent on the cost of conformance and non-conformance. The cost of conformance entails defining processes and measurement, staffing, technology, in-process and end-result inspections, and continuously improving the process. The cost of non-conformance involves rework, retraining staff, fluctuations in morale and its effect on performance, errors and omissions, and lost revenue.

The balancing act

Ultimately you are the best person to decide which things to track and measure in order to reach your business goals. A balanced set of measurements, a balanced scorecard if you will, should include metrics from different areas of your business such as financial, employee, growth, and internal business processes.

Learn more

ReSource Pro hosts two IAC events a year with themes around Insurance Operations Excellence. Follow us on Twitter and connect with us on LinkedIn and Facebook to read more about managing by the numbers!

Defining Insurance Wins

Dan Epstein, ReSource Pro’s CEO, recently penned an article for Leader’s Edge magazine entitled, “What are Wins?”  In this article Dan discusses how insurance organizations can use numbers to gain insight into their business and Insurance Winbuild a successful strategy using data. According to the article, numbers help you better understand your business by determining which activities matter most.

The activities that matter most are those that lead to runs and wins. Dan illustrates this concept with an example. Billy Beane manager of the Oakland A’s has been successfully managing his team by the numbers for years. Beane believes in order to win baseball games you have to score runs, in order to score runs you have to get on base. Beane  started paying attention to a critical number, the on base percentage to achieve his objective of runs. Insurance organizations can do what Billy did by first determining what a win is, what a run is and what the critical numbers are to track them.

Click here to read the full article and learn how you can define your runs and start winning!