We are all human so even the best-run businesses make mistakes. The important thing is to fix them as quickly as possible.
Therefore, any service that helps advisers to act quickly to remedy oversights has to be valuable. Who has never left the office only to remember while travelling home that they did not provide a promised update for a particular client? Or, heaven forbid, that they forgot to put a policy on risk?
M-Office is a great new app from Zurich which can help protection advisers to address any such situations in a timely fashion.
And it does a great deal more to make the adviser’s life easier. It enables 24-hour access to the status of pipeline protection applications in any location where a mobile phone or WiFi signal is available.
I am delighted to see a provider seeking to differentiate itself with the quality of its pipeline tracking proposition. This area has long suffered from under-investment by life companies despite being an opportunity for individual insurers to clearly differentiate themselves from their competitors.
It is regrettable that Origo’s tracking initiative a decade ago failed to achieve traction. Invariably, insurers cite this example when dismissing calls for delivery of better pipeline tracking.
Ten years later, surely it is time for the industry to get over this and recognise that delivering accurate tracking information is a great way to both provide a better service to advisers and take huge costs out of provider call centres.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that as many as two in three calls to new business departments are some form of tracking enquiry. Failing to find a smarter way to address
such enquiries is a wholesale waste of money.
Zurich has clearly seen this opportunity and is grasping it with both hands. Both the service it is providing and the manner of its delivery demonstrate a clear commitment to be really supportive of protection advisers.
While other life offices continue to carp on about the failure of an initiative a decade ago, Zurich has focused on delivering what advisers need. The company first showed me this service a few months ago and although M-Office has been delivered at an impressive speed, it is also noticeable that Zurich has listened to feedback during the process and built in extra functionality while maintaining an aggressive schedule.
Mobile apps are an excellent mechanism through which to deliver such support. They can include the necessary embedded security for such communications while using the same log-in credentials that the adviser uses to access their adviser extranet.
On entry to M-Office, users see a summary screen where filters separate the app into the main categories of information sought by advisers, such as: cases in progress, cases that can be put on risk, those that are due to expire and, most importantly, applications that require adviser action or have been recently updated.
Users can configure the ways in which the data is presented to better reflect their own pipeline tracking processes.
A “By status” tab allows the adviser to see how many cases they have at each stage of the application process. Users selecting the “In progress” option see all their cases by client name and reference number.
The search function at the top of the screen enables the adviser to quickly find the case they are looking for by typing the name of the client.
On selecting a particular client, the viewable information is expanded, showing the status of the case, when it was last updated, the sum assured, outstanding requirements and agent’s reference.
If more information is required, the adviser can move to a full case tracking screen. This offers more information than we have seen in any similar service from any other provider tracking system.
It is great to see a life office delivering such clear data – such as when a case was last updated, the date of last status change, the expiry date, the number of days in the pipeline and the number of outstanding requirements – in such a readily accessible environment and whenever an adviser needs it.
This is where apps can be so much more user-friendly than extranets for advisers. There are still more features we would like Zurich to add but it is important to recognise what a big step this service represents in giving advisers easy access to the information they need to better service their clients.
M-Office updates information every four hours and while we would like to see this happening in real time, four hours is a big improvement on many other offerings.
The app also includes a secure messaging facility so that the adviser can update or instruct Zurich on specific cases.
Overall, the app is very efficient at showing the adviser what is required for each case. It could evolve further by providing a better explanation of what has already happened and Zurich is looking at how such content can be added.
Although this is only the first step in a much wider app-driven support infrastructure for advisers, the initial release of M-Office provides the information advisers need where and when they want it. This demonstrates a clear commitment by Zurich to service delivery.
Other protection providers would do well to follow this lead.
Ian McKenna is director of the Finance & Technology Research Centre
A more detailed review of the M-Office can be found at http://www.ftrc.co/blog/adam-higgs/14032014095213-putting-tracking-into-context/