Innovation requires taking risks but also listening to your customers.
It was late 1997, when Frank Colletti, vice president of customer and distribution services at Zurich North America, first realised his company had a problem. During a routine focus group, some of Zurich's most prized clients expressed their dissatisfaction with the company's risk management service: the business intelligence Zurich was providing simply wasn't timely enough to meet their needs. The company's system of shipping claims data on CD-ROM wasn't up to scratch, they said, with crucial loss analysis information taking as long as six weeks to reach them. More importantly, they wanted to know what Colletti was going to do about it.
In Sydney, to present the Zurich story at an e-business conference, Colletti seems calm and relaxed. But that wasn't the case three years ago, he says. At the time, Colletti was director of e-business solutions for Zurich, a position he reached after nine years in the company's IT department, most of them spent overseeing the risk solutions support group and assembling loss analysis reports for the company's top clients.
Part of the $US45 billion Swiss multinational Zurich Financial Services Group, Zurich North America specialises in providing property and casualty insurance to commercial enterprises in the US and Canada. Zurich's risk management services are aimed primarily at the company's largest customers, many of them Fortune 1000 companies, so it's not surprising that when these customers started voicing their concerns to Colletti, he not only took notice, he took action.
The solution Colletti and his team decided upon was to allow customers direct access to the claims information housed on Zurich's recently-completed intranet, giving them instant access to data and reports that previously took days or weeks to obtain. The new system, called RiskIntelligence, proved to be tremendously popular with Zurich's clients and continues to deliver new benefits to the company to this day.
Colletti says RiskIntelligence was a success because Zurich approached the installation as a whole new way of doing business. The plan was simple: the new extranet was to bring the organisation closer to its partners and customers. By tightening that loop, Colletti reasoned, everybody would benefit from improved communication and information sharing. In the end the extranet achieved all this and more, enabling Zurich to not only cut down the cost of business but also to improve its operational efficiency and, as word of its effectiveness spread among customers, generate new revenue.
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