The insurance industry continues to change rapidly, making customer acquisition and retention even more challenging. To succeed in this new market environment, two years ago CUNA Mutual Group embarked on a companywide transformation to create a more nimble, innovative and customer-centric organization.
When I was honored as one of Insurance & Technology's Elite 8 last year, I had recently transitioned from my role as CIO at CUNA Mutual to SVP of customer operations. The newly created customer operations organization was chartered with the mission to improve the service experience for our customers, credit unions and their members. Customer operations' strategy was to consolidate all of our call center, claims processing and policy administration services into one organization to drive better efficiencies and effectiveness in customer service.
As former CIO, I was fortunate to have been in a position to work with all of the different product and business lines across the company. Running operations has required me to think across the enterprise with a level of depth to ensure our strategy for service connects to CUNA Mutual's corporate strategy and the strategy of our major business lines. My experience as CIO has helped immeasurably in making sure this alignment is sustainable for the future.
We have completed the first 18 months of our transformation plan for operations to improve the customer experience. We focused on consolidating 40 customer operations sites into three, including a brand-new site in Fort Worth, Texas. In 12 months, we built the new site from the ground up with state-of-the-art technology and moved 500 new customer service employees to the new center. With our claims processing services, we implemented new technology to improve automatic payments by 30 percent and decrease process payment backlogs from 20 days to five days.
Leading customer operations, I am now our IT organization's largest internal customer. I have a strong appreciation for the complex technology aspects of our transformation. This perspective has helped me with communicating expectations, developing realistic implementation timelines and driving technical results that deliver the right business results.
A key thing I learned from making the change from IT to customer operations is the exponentially large impact our changes can have on customers. In IT, we built a customer-oriented governance structure, but the customer, for the most part, was another area of CUNA Mutual. The biggest shift for me as we make big changes to operations is always ensuring we protect the premium of the end customer. We touch thousands of customers each day; we are never short on getting real-time feedback.
To date, the process efficiencies we have implemented are delivering approximately $9 million in yearly financial benefit. The claims improvements are delivering more than $30 million in financial benefit -- returning real value to our customers and the company. We have made solid progress in transforming our customer service model, and we are projected to make our goal one year ahead of plan.
So what has this experience taught me? A solid strategy is important, but great execution is essential to success. Our CEO, Jeff Post, always reminds me that you must have the right people in the right jobs at the right time -- right now! I frequently add my own reminder to our teams: Realism is, many times, the greatest barrier to great execution.
Another lesson of which I am frequently reminded is the importance of effective communication. Any time you can invest in working with your team on change management is time well spent. It is easy to underestimate the impact of people change when you have large financial goals to meet. Spending the time, informally and formally, to communicate changes -- what it means and what it doesn't -- is essential.
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Rick Roy is refocusing CUNA Mutual Group's technology to improve service, beginning with a systems consolidation effort designed to create a single view of the customer.