Building a Better Bridge
underwriting and claims.
Many companies proclaim their allegiance to customers, but have a difficult
time proving it, particularly companies
that deal mainly with the independent
agency distribution channel. According
to Sullivan, there is nothing magical
about Motorists’ approach. Members
of the customer experience team visit
with the agencies on a regular basis to
build relationships and elicit feedback on
what those agents are seeking from their
experience with Motorists.
“When we open the channels for
feedback, we make sure to stay in contact
to close the loop,” says Martin. “We al-
ways follow up and explain to them how
we plan to deal with their feedback.”
In addition to visits with agents
on their turf, the customer experience
team also brings agents to the Motorists’
home office in Columbus to hear their
suggestions. The team established an
email account for agents to send in their
ideas, and the team follows up and adds
requests to its backlog.
“We’re looking at making this a better
system for feedback when we follow up
with them,” says Sullivan.
That’s the sole reason for the unit’s existence, points out Campana. The focus is
on one thing only: customers. To improve
that level of involvement, Motorists is an
active participant in various user groups
involving agency management systems,
which enables the unit to receive more
feedback through those channels.
“We did studies to understand where
we were lacking in customer relation-
ships,” says Sullivan. “Now, it’s part of
Another aspect of the Motorists’
approach is that once the unit was
established, it took just one month to
get things moving, according to Martin.
There were no preconceived notions on
what would work and how to go about
“Our philosophy is the customer
experience is never finished,” he says.
“We always look back on the processes
and how we deliver customer experi-
ence. We didn’t have to figure it all out to
Continuous improvement is the goal
of the unit, explains Sullivan. The unit
began with a small staff and the initial
focus was on low-hanging-fruit initia-
tives that were easy to pick.
The Motorists executive team put a
great deal of thought into the concept, so it
was not a knee-jerk reaction to one or two
issues. The company split off parts of the
IT department and other business units of
the organization to create this concept.
“The executive team took time to
figure out the hybrid approach and gave
us good direction on where to go,” says
Once the direction was established,
Sullivan points out, “We pretty much
blew everything up.”
He believes that was the easiest way
to move forward. It meant the estab-
lishment of a new work environment.
Motorists now has a collaborative area
for the customer experience team—no
walls and an open work-area.
The Motorists IT unit had operated
a bit using this format in the past, but
now it is a true agile environment with
low partitions between people who work
across from one another.
The open work environment has
evolved over the last six years at Motorists. Most cubicles had high walls, but
there were collaborative areas and dedicated conference rooms for employees to
That gave way to cubes with lower
walls where workers could see people eye-to-eye. That, in turn, gave way to the open
tables concept the customer experience
team now uses. It has been a natural evolution. No longer would co-workers email
ideas to someone who physically was just
feet away. Many conference rooms have
50-inch monitors so the team can do
real-time video conferencing with people
from any geographic location.
“The core team stays together usually
in one area and there are various people
that are work remotely on different
projects,” says Martin. “I think it’s well
accepted. There is a combination of
developers, BAs, system analysts, project
managers, and the management team
out there collaborating.”
The decision was made to introduce
other concepts. Sullivan points out that
Motorists operated a typical IT shop
with business analysts and a develop-
ment team. They changed that model as
well to create the user experience team.
“No longer were we trying to maximize things for underwriting or claims,”
says Sullivan. “The titles didn’t really
change, but the roles did.”
For instance, there were business analysts that became integration designers.
They were no longer gathering requirements; they were trying to design interactions, explains Sullivan. Developers
were no longer object-oriented developers; they were back-end or front-end developers. Content specialists and visual
designers that were on the business side
of marketing were now interactive with
the developers on a regular basis.
“We have concepts such as design
thinking,” says Sullivan. “It was really
radical to come up with something
and then go out and ask the users. The
developers get feedback and design
something. They are sketching things
out, not building full-blown prototypes.
We are trying to get feedback as quickly
Sullivan believes the customer
experience team bought into the concept
quickly when they understood that ev-
erything they were doing was to enhance
the customer experience.
The team was also given something
that many insurers are loath to offer:
freedom to make mistakes.
“If we are not making mistakes,
we are not innovating and not getting
better,” says Sullivan. “It’s OK to make
mistakes as long as we end up coming
out with a really good solution. The heart
of it is thinking about everything from a
customer perspective.” ITA