April 21, 2010

By Chris Zaske, Verint Systems

For the insurance industry, customer service is a top priority. However, the age-old question still remains: How do you find a way to cut costs without damaging service levels? Individual departments are being asked to "cut the fat," while the broader organization is now taking an enterprise view to optimize resource utilization and enhance efficiency across functions and channels. However, the different departments within an organization have traditionally operated as individual silos, making gathering data, monitoring quality, tracking performance and identifying opportunities across the enterprise very challenging.Recently, a number of insurance providers have turned to workforce optimization (WFO) software to drive enterprise-wide performance improvements. Historically, WFO has been proven in the contact center. Today, the next-generation offering has evolved creating a robust system that supports not only the contact center, but also complex back-office operations.

Defining Enterprise WFO Workforce optimization combines information from different systems and areas throughout the organization to deliver critical insights into service operations, customer behaviors, and employee performance. In leveraging the software, branch offices and the broader enterprise can establish the fine balance between managing costs and enhancing customer service.

Even further, WFO for back-office operations enables organizations to:

• Capture volumes and translate tasks into activities and processes that reflect all the work being done, including production and non-production activities (e.g., meetings, training, special projects). This includes manual tasks, for which there are no systems to derive volume data.

• Forecast work volumes and schedule staff regardless of physical or organizational location according to activities to be performed instead of hours to be worked. Maximizing resource utilization against the most important activities helps ensure deadlines and service levels are met.

• Create robust, enterprise capacity plans for current and future needs, including what-if scenarios.

• Monitor quality and adherence across functional areas to help mitigate risk and meet compliance requirements.

• Manage individual performance through electronic scorecards, providing feedback to individual employees on how they are doing against expectations and key success metrics. In doing so, the organization can roll up scorecards into enterprise dashboards to support key decision-making and measure performance against strategic goals.

With such benefits as improved customer service, faster turnaround times, greater throughput, and improved productivity, WFO is making its way across organizations around the world. The following provides insight on how two separate organizations leverage WFO in non-traditional ways and achieve results that greatly impact and touch most departments within each enterprise.

Customer Example: Increasing Turnaround Times The services and operational support division of a U.S. life insurance company boasts a large contact center and roughly 200 back-office support staff to handle account maintenance functions. By taking advantage of its WFO implementation in the contact center, the organization concluded that 20 percent of incoming calls inquired about the status of service requests. These call types were longer in length and usually involved repeat conversations with frustrated customers ultimately costing the company approximately $300,000 a year. Yet, the company had no automated means of tracking and monitoring workflow across the back-office support group to identify the causes of the long processing times for service requests. Taking a lesson from the contact center, it deployed WFO for the back office to gain operational insight and efficiencies. As a result, the division was able to dynamically staff against activities based upon deadlines, eliminating non-value added tasks and aligning work to appropriately skilled staff. The outcome included a turnaround time that improved by 37 percent. This decrease in response time significantly reduced the number of inquiry calls into the contact center and enhanced customer service. The contact center and support groups now work in tandem to address customer support issues.

Customer Example: Streamlining Processes A mid-sized P&C insurer experienced excessively long handling times for underwriting new policies. The process was accomplished by three groups across seven regional offices: underwriting, underwriting support and policy services. The company experienced challenges in locating the source of the bottlenecks as it attempted to capture policy aging data and track individual policies. Although its existing workflow distribution tools delivered the work to the right users, it was unable to show the path the work followed during the process, how much time it took and by whom it was handled. By implementing back-office WFO, the company gained visibility into the "behind the scenes" processes coming to the realization that documents bounced back and forth among the three groups more than necessary. Workforce optimization helped enable the organization to streamline processes and touch points across the divisions and sites,and track aging items to ensure that policies were delivered within service-level targets. The new ability to track work through the cycles also ensured that the appropriate steps were being carried out to mitigate underwriting risk, thereby improving quality and providing a level of consistency they had not previously experienced.

As the examples above illustrate, WFO, when deployed across the broader enterprise can help insurers break down organizational silos, streamline processes, align staff and balance workloads to meet service level targets, and deliver services faster and more accurately. Ultimately, it's a highly useful asset for driving a more consistent, satisfying customer experience across channels and entities.

About the Author:Chris Zaske, vice president, workforce optimization practice, Verint Witness Actionable Solutions, is an expert in strategic planning and business management processes. He has worked with financial services firms around the world, helping organizations consolidate operational structures in both the front office and back office. He can be reached at chris.zaske@verint.com.Recently, a number of insurance providers have turned to workforce optimization (WFO) software to drive enterprise-wide performance improvements. Historically, WFO has been proven in the contact center. Today, the next-generation offering has evolved creating a robust system that supports not only the contact center, but also complex back-office operations.

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