This month at NEOS, in keeping with the frights and thrills of the season, we asked some of our staff to divulge their own horror stories from working in the insurance industry. We heard back on a host of different topics, from customer service terrors to project management difficulties. We’ve chosen the three that frightened us the most. Read on, if you dare.
Rise of the Angry Customers
An auto, home, and life insurance company was experiencing rapid growth in the volume of calls to the customer service center at the same time that it was developing a new IT system. The project consumed much of management’s time and attention, leaving issues in operations to flounder. Managers recognized the need to act. The company responded in exactly the wrong way: by reducing customer service center hours in a misguided attempt to keep frazzled employees from becoming overwhelmed. Customers began spending at least 30 minutes on hold every time they would call in, often times never reaching a representative. Now employees were dealing with high volume and angry customers. Extending hours and hiring more customer service representatives could have helped mitigate the situation.
Change Management Abandoned
A large life insurance company was building a new system to manage the licensing of annuity and life insurance agents. The project was slated to take a year, but as the final months of the project drew near, the project manager repeatedly pushed out the system completion date without changing the implementation date. Meanwhile, employees in Training and Development were building online system training. With each system change, the training team needed to make corresponding updates. When the system was finally pronounced complete, employees had two weeks to build training, jeopardizing the system adoption and proper usage by employees at large. Placing more emphasis on the change management component of the project could have reduced stress among employees and ensured a smoother transition to the new system.
A leading auto, home, and life insurance company was unable to keep pace with growing sales. They wanted to improve their ability to handle the growth and decided to invest in a system that could help realize that goal. However, once talks of a new system came on the table, other goals started to surface. For example, the new system should be able to handle current sales and help drive future growth. These aspirations were all important things for the company to consider, yet management failed to prioritize which issues needed to be addressed first. Attacking all of their problems at once made it challenging to allocate resources properly and identify dependencies. Lack of prioritization also made it difficult for them to articulate what they really wanted their new system to be able to do beyond the end goal. The company ended up relying on a vendor to determine the best path forward, ultimately spending time and money on a system that couldn’t do everything they wanted. If they had properly assessed and prioritized their needs, they could have come out of the forest of system development with a system that met their needs.
These and other horror stories could have been avoided, or at least minimized, with more attention on project, change, and business process management. Sometimes consulting experts with an objective eye or leaders with more experience in project success is what a team needs to spot problems in a project or a process. Bear in mind our insurance industry horror stories to keep from being spooked on your next project; avoid the tricks and enjoy the treat of a project well done.