From Option to Value Creation

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An aggressive wind storm toppled the fence on my property overnight. Anxious to submit a claim before I headed out to a meeting, I checked my insurance company’s website to see if there is an online option. I was thrilled that I could submit a claim online. When I got to the ‘open a claim’ page, the first thing it prompted for was the insurance policy number. I didn’t have it handy, so I opted to call the toll free number instead. The line was busy and alerted me that the wait time would be 15 minutes. I had to put it off until end-of-day.

In designing a solution, we start with a broad objective in mind. These broad objectives include introducing a new customer contact option, improving service, automating a tedious manual task, eliminating errors, improving cycle time, and reducing costs. Unfortunately, these broad objectives aren’t specific enough for detailing the design so it delivers the intended benefits. When the solution fails to deliver the value, it falls short of expectations.

Value is in the eye of the beholder. Businesses need to determine who they want the solution to benefit and ensure that the solution delivers the kinds of benefit that would truly please them. What a customer values could be very different from what an internal workgroup considers beneficial. The differences might require modifications to operational procedures.

Using my insurance claim as an example, having the insurance policy number is ideal for the insurance company as its agent can look up the coverage, determine the deductible required and process the claim. It is convenient for the company as the archive of information is likely by insurance policy number. For the customer, it is an inconvenience as she would need to locate the policy. Since many insurance companies don’t mail a hard copy of the insurance policy any more, the insured would have to look up the communication sent a while back. It creates frustration for the customer. In processing the claim, the agent needs to review the submission anyways. Wouldn’t it make sense for him to look up the policy number?

The shift triggers an extra step for the agent. Alternatively, the system could be modified to retrieve automatically the insurance policy number by the homeowner’s name or address. To the customer, the real value is in the ease of submitting a claim.

To design for value creation, you need to:

  1. Flush out the values. Be crystal clear on who the solution aims to serve and the values it should deliver. This step is key to structure the design and lay the foundation for functionalities and usability. Don’t let the trivial undermines the discussion. You need to tackle the value discussion from multiple perspectives in order to avoid overlooking important ones.
  2. Determine the minimum input needed. You invest in the technology to minimize the effort required to accomplish a task, particularly from your customer. You can design the solution to filter, verify, and retrieve data. For example, a match of the homeowner’s address should trigger a search for active insurance policies. Have the technology do the work.
  3. Remove biases. It is best to start with a clean slate so that the design is not constrained by the status quo operations and limitations. It is obvious that the insurance policy number is needed to process a claim. However, there are different ways to obtain that information. You don’t want to impose a requirement on the customer that contravenes with the purpose of the solution.

Building customer satisfaction and loyalty is about delivering value. When you keep that in mind, you would consistently optimize your solution design to fulfill expectations.

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