Insurance & Technology is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.


05:31 PM
Lisa Valentine
Lisa Valentine
Connect Directly

CUNA Mutual Group CIO Tom Gosnell Talks With I&T About The Company’s Customer Operations Transformation

The shake-up continues: Gosnell and his team are in the midst of a three-year customer operations transformation that includes merging more than 50 call centers into three and consolidating 37 product administration systems into a few applications.

I&T: What is the goal of CUNA Mutual's customer operations transformation?

Gosnell: Our customers told us that we were not consistent across CUNA Mutual, and as a result we could be very difficult to do business with. For example, customers used to call into siloed customer care centers with different processes. We've consolidated down to three integrated customer care centers, which use consistent processes.

As part of this transformation, we've looked at doing business from the customers' eyes. That's a key driver for us: Customers want to do business with you the way they want to do business, not the way you force them to do business with you. We're focusing on streamlining our processes and making them transparent so customers have a consistently good experience with our company.

I&T: What are the major benefits of this transformation?

Gosnell: We'll be able to pay claims sooner while providing a higher level of customer service. It will streamline processes and make our operations more efficient and effective. Having 37 product administration systems doesn't support high-quality customer service because it's very difficult for agents to navigate those systems and to answer questions for customers. Consolidating systems will also reduce our internal costs.

I&T: How far along are you with consolidating the policy administration systems?

Gosnell: There's a lot more heavy lifting to do, but we've already seen evidence that it's working. Our customer care agents are able to answer questions about various products without having to use a different user interface. They can use one or two systems with a common user interface and get the answers to the customers' questions more quickly.

I&T: What are some of the vendor products you've used to enable the transformation?

Gosnell: We selected a policy admin system from AdminServer (Chester, Pa.). It's a huge play for us, and so far it's been terrific. In fact, we don't need to do any code changes to the AdminServer base system. It's very configurable and flexible and has been exactly what we need at the moment.

The only other technology [platform] I would mention is our VOIP technology from Avaya (Basking Ridge, N.J.), which has been very impressive. We're using call distribution, workflows and the NICE (Ra'anana, Israel) supervisor monitoring capabilities. We're now able to load balance all of our locations so that if one location gets overloaded with too many calls we can send those calls to either of our other two locations dynamically.

I&T: Do you have an enterprise data warehouse?

Gosnell: Our customer operations transformation includes an enterprise data warehouse that will extend across the enterprise and will allow us to understand and analyze customer service information and help us get to the root cause of problems and therefore service customers better. We've started to lay in an architecture that we will work across the company.

I&T: How does CUNA Mutual promote customer satisfaction across the company?

Gosnell: One of our objectives across the entire company is to measure customer satisfaction in various areas. Customer satisfaction is a part of everyone's bonus compensation — incentive compensation at CUNA Mutual is based on increasing revenue, hitting a certain operating income and customer service. Customer service criteria include how quickly we respond to a customer with a notification about a product or a claim that they had. We also measure simple things, such as how quickly we answer a customer call.

I&T: What are you doing from an IT perspective to better work with your customers?

Gosnell: We're working with our customers to improve their technology capabilities, talking to them about doing some joint projects and potentially doing some innovation labs where we could present ideas to our customers and really drive their thinking. I want us to be out there working with customers, getting them to think about things differently, and then ultimately providing value to them and their members.

One idea is to create a joint credit union initiative to provide a much better Internet capability for their members. They're looking to us to help them build that and ultimately better integrate with CUNA Mutual's products and services. So it's not just about how we're providing customer service to our customers; it's about helping our customers provide better customer service to their customers or members.

I&T: Will wireless technologies have an impact on the insurance industry?

Gosnell: Wireless is a technology that wasn't making much headway, but I think it now provides a good value proposition by improving customer service and making us more effective in servicing our customers. We've started some wireless projects. For example, there's still a fair amount of fraud around plastic cards. We provide credit card insurance and are looking at providing wireless alerts to cell phones and PDAs to have members confirm certain transactions.

I&T: How do you manage the staffing challenges that can accompany such a large-scale transformation?

Gosnell: We do lots of things to make people want to come to Madison, Wisconsin. We make sure we give our best people opportunities and interesting work, and have

credible leadership able to articulate a direction and excite people about heading in that direction. There is no secret sauce. It's all about executing the basic things that people want. We all want to be challenged, to have opportunities for career growth and to have mentors and role models. To some degree we are changing the culture. Change isn't easy, but we are working hard to get people to understand why we're changing.

I&T: How large is your IT staff?

Gosnell: Our IT staff is about 540 employees. The demand for our IT services is radically increasing, but some of that work is one-time projects. We don't want to have to ramp up the workforce and then right-size, so we're implementing more of a variable workforce using sourcing arrangements. We are trying to keep a steady stream of folks who can take ownership for projects and then use these external resources to help us work some of these projects.

I&T: As CUNA Mutual changes, is your role as CIO evolving as well?

Gosnell: It is. The business is really becoming technology, or sometimes I say that technology is really becoming the business. As an example, we provide support for credit union members who want to complete an auto loan and buy insurance for that loan. We'll take the application for the loan via the Internet or call center and process, approve and fulfill the loan. To do all that requires adding technology that can support a loan through closing and servicing.

Technology is a much more integral part of the business. Now that we're halfway through our customer operations transformation, we're focusing on our next [technology] vision, and as CIO I'm very involved in that planning.

When I came to CUNA Mutual, the company was successful but had been in a bit of a glass bubble. Increasingly, CIOs are becoming change leaders who challenge the status quo and the business model, look at doing things differently and increase performance year after year to help companies get to the next level from good to great.

Register for Insurance & Technology Newsletters