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The ability for operating models to respond to crises is proving to be more important now, more than ever. Business continuity and disaster recovery strategies are being tested to the max, let alone the challenges the teams and processes are facing as we continue to work from home.
Operating models are all supposed to have contingency built in: the ability to respond to crises, whether predictable or not is an essential element of any modus operandi. During COVID-19 this has been shown to be more important than ever. Business continuity and disaster recovery strategies are being tested to the max by rapidly evolving challenges such as travel restrictions, company-wide remote working and unprecedented absence levels.
Access to finance, supply chains, HR processes, customer operations and services are all being severely disrupted. Companies must quickly design and implement an operational response that is rapid and robust whilst navigating a course through the spread of the COVID-19 virus and its implications, both known and unknown. Almost overnight firms have had to rethink their traditional approaches to technology, data, analytics and security as well as putting in place the structures that allow a distributed workforce to work from home effectively.
And running through all of the above there needs to be the golden thread of meeting customer needs and expectations – both of which are also changing radically during the crisis. This is a time when both commercial and private customers are relying on their insurer to provide support, advice and reassurance: if they cannot access the standard services and find the answers and confidence they are looking for we will be letting them down in their moment of need – and missing an opportunity to demonstrate the value we bring.
To get this right, insurers and brokers need to address the unprecedented stress being placed on people, process and technology by the shift to remote working – and get their own house in order.
They then need to consider how to deliver a consistent customer experience in this new environment, and how the new alignment of people, process and technology will deliver that: where the weak spots will be, the bottlenecks, the frustrating customers experiences that can poison the chalice so easily.
Those that succeed will create the kind of experience that sticks in customers’ minds and create an engagement that will last beyond the current crisis. Those that get it wrong risk alienating clients at a time when they needed support the most and losing those clients permanently. And it is worth taking a moment to consider the longer term in the midst of dealing with the immediate challenges of the crisis: transforming operations now can create opportunities post crisis to positively impact customer engagement, retention and drive competitive advantage.
As is often the case, effectively using digital in this drive to engage and retain customers will be at the heart of many strategies.
Leading companies are agile and innovative with their deployment of new technologies, and in this crisis that agility is bearing fruit. Infrastructures that allow distributed teams to connect and collaborate effectively, stay connected and work collaboratively are key. RPA and AI technologies have enormous promise and potential to combat some of the operational challenges arising from the crisis by handling some of the more manual aspects of processes – but how many players in the market have sufficiently developed and implemented those technologies to allow them to deliver those benefits in a work from home environment?
As always, of course, the technology alone is not enough. This crisis is clearly exposing the fact that if the people are not engaged and aligned with the values of the company then the technology alone will fail – companies that maintain high levels of engagement and morale and help their teams to feel more connected will improve well-being. Equally processes and systems need to be devised for anticipating, identifying and offering help with any mental health issues among the work force, some of whom may be living and working alone, others who may be struggling to work in crowded and noisy home environments and dealing with domestic as well as professional stress levels.
However, times of crises bring opportunity. Companies who succeed in engaging employees NOW and who develop an innovative culture that can build the capabilities needed to deal with the COVID19 crisis are also building for future success. The skills, mindsets, technologies and processes we design now may well lay the foundations for a new kind of business that will be agile, customer focussed and driven by engaged, motivated teams united by the experience of triumphing over adversity. I will leave it to the reader’s imagination to visualise what will happen to those companies that fail to respond, but I can assure you the business they lose will readily be picked up by those that get it right.