What are the main challenges of combining an office-based and remote workforce?
“We have spent months thinking about this and analysing it. What is the best model? It is seductive to please everyone and create a hybrid model; colleagues spend some time in the office and sometimes not, but we have all realised what we will have in the office in future is not what we had before."
“Colleagues will not be going back to the office as a team of people working together all the time. We asked our people for their views and 90% didn’t want to go back to an office full time. While a hybrid model is tempting, it won’t work."
“We’ve looked at the metrics of the working from home model, and there has been no major impact on productivity; call lengths tend to be longer, but we can mitigate the impact on productivity by providing agents with software and other tools to give them better knowledge."
“Our staff turnover has nearly halved and sickness is at the lowest level in our history. Of course, in the current climate people don’t want to be out of work, but here in the South West there is plenty of recruitment going on elsewhere, so unemployment isn’t a major issue. The fact is that our people like it. They save money, they don’t need to travel to work, and they get to spend more time at home with their family."
“We do need to create new ways to bring everyone together. At Brightside we’ve just done a virtual town hall for 500 people; the feedback has been fantastic, and everyone also bought into our virtual pre-Christmas build up. In truth we all have to be more creative about engaging people in this virtual workplace."
“We have indicated to our colleagues at Brightside that we are considering a ‘work from anywhere model,’ but we will have a central hub; it won’t be a call centre, but a hub to foster collaboration, and hold meetings to develop and train people. I don’t see the need to go back to offices. We can achieve what we want via a hub."
To what extent has AI adoption accelerated over the last 12 months? What does this mean for human roles?
“I think AI is yet to deliver its potential. There’s been plenty of comment which has heightened the hype and a sense of ‘OMG I need to do something.’ Much of this talking up is from suppliers, but I have yet to see deployment of AI at scale in our industry. Of course, AI has potential, and we have been using AI for specific repetitive processes for several years, and we will do more. But don’t invest in AI before undertaking careful analysis of what you really need it for".
“Ask yourself: Why are you doing the work? And then eliminate it or move it to customer self service if possible; once these avenues have been explored, it is legitimate to ask whether it could be done by investing in AI. In short: ‘Let’s not automate that which could be eliminated, but automate the necessary remaining manual data entry type tasks that can’t be done in any other way. Bordereaux reconciliations for example.”
“Chat bots are an element of AI with potential and the tools themselves are mainstream, including in some insurance providers. Chat bots are powered by data, and the quality of the data determines how effective chat bots can be."
“If the customer’s details are awry, such as the wrong spelling of their name, or the wrong postcode, or occupation, that will influence how the bot interacts with the customers. Poor data limits effectiveness, and could be counterproductive. In some areas of broking, data held in systems can be limited or poorly structured and defined and that is not sufficient for AI processes."
Next week Richard deals with business transformation and how insurance providers can become enthused by the need to transform.