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Farmers Pilots Use of IBM Simulation Game in Call Center Training

Farmers Insurance is piloting the use of IBM's business process management simulation game in its call center leadership training programs.

Identifying an opportunity to leverage a game as a learning tool, Farmers Insurance announced recently that it is piloting IBM's Innov8 2.0 business process management simulation game in the carrier's Agoura Hills, Calif.-based University of Farmers Claims (UofF, Claims) training facility and in training programs based in the insurer's Oklahoma City and Kansas City, Mo., HelpPoint contact centers. "Serious gaming is basically a natural transition into a more interactive [training] course," says Cliff Singontiko, senior manager, art direction, at UofF, Claims.

IBM (Armonk, N.Y.) describes Innov8 as a three-dimensional simulation based on real-world business scenarios that challenge users to develop solutions that drive results for both the business and customers. A version of the game can be accessed for free at

UofF, Claims' VP of learning Mike Cuffe first got the idea to tap the IBM simulation game in early spring 2009. His initial interest, he explains, was in the game's decision-making trees and problem solving requirements. "What I wanted to do was use it in our call center leadership training to provide a way for our people to think differently about our call center business processes," Cuffe recalls.

Indeed, Los Angeles-based Farmers' interest thus far has focused on Innov8's call center management module, which tasks users with optimizing a call center by managing variables such as staffing. Inside the Innov8 world, a gamer is given data and suggestions by various parts of the business and asked to reengineer isolated parts of the call center business process.

Then the gamer's new business process is challenged by unexpected events, such as rolling brownouts in a business partner's facility. Gamers must react to these variables by setting new business rules around functions such as call routing. Players decisions affect the business' key performance indicators and, ultimately, their score in the game.

High Score

Farmers, a part of Zurich Financial Services ($37.2 billion in gross written premium and policy fees, 2008), intends to leverage the game in its leadership training program, which is provided to call center employees entering the ranks of management. "One of the key areas [where the game could be used] would be in our leadership programs around strategic and systemic thinking," relates Singontiko.

For now, the game has not been customized for Farmers' operations. Singontiko says the business rules and associated metrics within the game are "quite different" from those in place at the carrier. As an abstraction, however, the game still proves to be a valuable simulation tool for the insurer's training efforts, he adds.

"A lot of the learning points [in the game] really apply to the [call center management] thought process," Singontiko relates. "After they play it, we can debrief them on what they've learned and how it could apply to our organization."

Cuffe says his team has been piloting the game for more than two months in an effort to determine its viability to Farmers' training environment and its possible applications. "Right now we think there's a very appropriate fit for our call centers, but I'm intrigued as to how you might change the infrastructure of the game to see how you might apply the gaming infrastructure to other applications," he comments.

In particular, Cuffe continues, he sees opportunities to leverage the game's underlying platform and engine. According to Cuffe, the game possibly could be "re-skinned" to provide a more Farmers-specific experience. "I could actually put real business metrics behind [it]," he speculates. "I think you'd be able to apply that platform to a real call center and change some of the decision trees behind that and apply that to a real, live working environment."

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