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John Hancock Rolls Out ‘Genius Bar’-Style IT Help Desk

Many Manulife divisions are taking the walk-in approach to IT support, according to VP of end-user services Jacques Ouimet.

Support is a tricky balance in IT: It’s difficult to come up with a system that doesn’t increase tension among support staff and end-users. But Manulife thinks it’s found a solution. The Canadian insurance giant has been rolling out “TechLounges” across its divisions, drop-in support centers where users can come for training, upgrades, and minor issues.

“We’re talking about improving the overall experience of the end-user,” says Manulife VP of end-user services Jacques Ouimet. “They can walk in for a question at the spur of the moment with no need to call or schedule. We can also do half-hour training sessions in there” with the goal of better information retention.

TechLounges, which are modeled after Apple Store Genius Bars, were installed in Manulife’s Toronto and Waterloo, Ontario, offices earlier this year. Last week, the company installed one at John Hancock, its US-based subsidiary, and plans to put them in its Hong Kong and Tokyo offices in 2015, Ouimet says.

[End-user experience a high priority for Elite 8 Tom Peach of Zurich North America]

The TechLounges also help remote workers who might not know when they’ll be in the office for a training session or upgrade.

“We think about 30% of our population will work at least two days a week from home,” Ouimet says. “Trying to schedule a technician the day you’re in the office can be hard. Now, they can just drop by.”

That’s important with an enterprise that is rapidly proliferating its technology. Manulife is currently not a bring-your-own-device environment, and so many of its employees are issued one or more devices that aren’t just for the office.

“Twenty-five percent of our employees have mobiles, and 75% have laptops as opposed to desktops,” Ouimet says. “There’s also collaboration and remote access tools on top of the usual Office suite. Generally people learn the basics they need and they keep asking the same questions. We’ve got to reach out to them better in terms of their knowledge development.”

Nathan Golia is senior editor of Insurance & Technology. He joined the publication in 2010 as associate editor and covers all aspects of the nexus between insurance and information technology, including mobility, distribution, core systems, customer interaction, and risk ... View Full Bio

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Nathan Golia
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Nathan Golia,
User Rank: Author
11/25/2014 | 9:26:09 PM
Re: Tech troubles, fixed
In addition, it shows that consumerization of IT doesn't have to end with BYOD. you can consumerize the whole IT operation to make it more familiar to new employees.
Nathan Golia
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Nathan Golia,
User Rank: Author
11/25/2014 | 9:24:58 PM
Re: Tech troubles, fixed
I think it might say more about the success of the genius bar than how far behind FS is. Clearly people respond to the drop in model. Good on any company that finds a way to incorporate that with enterprise-level tech.
Kelly22
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Kelly22,
User Rank: Author
11/24/2014 | 10:41:18 AM
Re: Tech troubles, fixed
Good point, it could be a little bit of both. Apple was ahead of the game, but it has taken financial services a pretty long time to catch up.
Jonathan_Camhi
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Jonathan_Camhi,
User Rank: Author
11/23/2014 | 8:56:26 PM
Re: Tech troubles, fixed
It feels like the Genius Bar was introduced so long ago. The fact that financial services organizations are still tryign to recreate that model kind of seays something about how far behind they are in technology. Or how far ahead Apple was when they introduced it.
Kelly22
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Kelly22,
User Rank: Author
11/19/2014 | 5:15:29 PM
Tech troubles, fixed
I like this idea, and it's good to see Manulife being proactive about addressing employee needs. People who work in the office can get help as they need it, and remote workers don't have to rearrange their schedules to fix tech problems.
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