The symbol of the Grail as the source of the ultimate mystical experience has been the subject of countless novels, plays, and poems. Valiant knights embark on the long, arduous quest with single-minded focus and a willingness to suffer, sacrifice, and (occasionally) die to achieve the goal.
So, how does this relate to process excellence?
The quest for process excellence may not result in your death, but it does require single-minded focus, resiliency, and investment over extended periods of time. Just as the knights prepared themselves physically and spiritually for their quest, so too must you prepare yourself politically and financially because process excellence does not result from quick hits and easy fixes. A truly excellent process:
- Supports the strategic objectives of the company and aligns with one or more of the organization’s key performance indicators. You must understand your company’s competitive positioning. Are you the low cost insurer or the high-touch service provider? Your definition of an excellent process and your investment priorities will differ depending on how you answer the questions, “What is your competitive advantage?” and “How do my processes build competitive advantage?”
- Effectively engages the policy owner or distributor in a simple, straightforward customer journey. You must understand how the agent’s expectations differ from the annuitant’s and craft invisible processes that serve all your customers. If your customer must adapt to your processes instead of the reverse, you have failed in your quest.
- Motivates employees and enriches their work experience. No less important than your customers are your call center service reps, new business processors, underwriters, quality managers, etc. To drive to process excellence, you must resolve burdensome processes with unreasonable turnaround times or obsolete tools and keep a close eye on rewards and incentives.
- Is as efficient as possible with minimal hand offs and routing. You must take a hard look at how you enable your processes so you can make smart decisions about how to organize and automate.
- Benefits from cross-functional collaboration with a strong process owner and advocate. Processes do not exist in vacuums. One process feeds another and consumes the outputs from others. You must understand how all your processes fit together into your macro value chain and ensure the links are strong. That being said, process accountability should be clear. Agency services may weigh in on a new business process, but the new business leader owns that process and related decisions.
- Exceeds service level expectations beyond the insurance industry. Insurers do not compete only with each other now. Online experiences from Amazon to eBay raise expectations related to ease of doing business, user experience, and service. You must understand not only how your competitors do business but learn from the best practices of younger, more nimble industries.