Customer engagement consulting for Manulife

Ember is helping global financial services provider Manulife transform its customer experience and frontline operations. We have delivered a series of consulting, analytics and change projects, first demonstrating the scale of the opportunities, then helping Manulife shape its strategy and customer operations to become a digital customer leader.

With over 26 million customers and US$860 billion of assets under management, Manulife is one of the world’s largest financial services providers and has a history going back over a century. Today, it operates under its own brand name in Canada and parts of Asia, and under the John Hancock brand in the US, offering insurance and a range of wealth management services.

Like many established companies, Manulife had recognised that its operations had grown over-complex. That was not only impacting on efficiency, it was also affecting the customer experience.

Reviewing the Customer Experience

In August 2016, Manulife invited Ember to conduct a strategic review of its customer experience operations, across all of the Canadian business groups. The invitation came from then Senior Vice President of Customer Experience Bob Buiaroski, who had worked with Ember in a previous role. “We needed expert input to help us form a view of a future operating model and become a customer experience leader,” he explains. “I knew Ember had relevant experience and that their size meant we could work directly with people that I trusted, so we’d get the best from them.”

The fast-paced review was conducted by a small team, led by Michael Anderson, VP of Ember Canada, who between them conducted over 140 interviews with staff as part of examining all aspects of Manulife’s customer operations. The key conclusion was that the company was – and in particular, key customer-facing staff were – spending too much time on activities that were not necessarily adding value to the customer experience. Ember demonstrated that, aside from improvements to the customer experience, the company could drive efficiency savings of 30% of OPEX by handling core and non-core activities differently. That included a provisional recommendation to outsource some non-core aspects while managing others away from Canada in Manulife’s overseas operations.

In Numbers

  •  Identified opportunity to save 30% of OPEX through reimagining the operating model and frontline service delivery
  •  Mapped out all interactions with Manulife around 18 life moments
  •  New ways of working for 3,500 customer service delivery employees

A Catalyst for Change

This was the start of what Bob describes as “a ripple effect”. The findings and recommendations served as a catalyst for a series of conversations about the company’s direction and vision – resulting in a decision not to outsource, but rather to transform internally. Non-core activities for much of the Canadian operation would be moved to the group’s base in Manila, freeing up frontline staff to focus on the market differentiating work that was needed onshore and closer to the customer. More widely, the business wanted to simplify the complex financial services landscape for its customers, streamlining processes, embracing digital and reviewing products and services.

Again, Bob viewed Ember as a key ally in this process. “Ember represented a deep expertise in helping Manulife formulate what is now a core part of our Canadian operation and a growing part of our operations worldwide. They helped provide credibility and clear evidence to support the direction.”

“Like many companies, Manulife was using analytics tactically,” explains Simon Hunt, VP of customer strategy. “But instead of examining a small set of calls round a specific issue, we wanted to get a detailed picture of all the issues that compel customers to call us. Ember was able to provide that, giving us robust data that we could then take action from.”

Rethinking products and services

As part of its goal to transform the customer experience and improve its Net Promoter Score, Manulife identified an opportunity to offer a differentiated service around key life moments. “From the birth of a child to the first home purchase to a loved one falling seriously ill, there are times in everyone’s life where insurance becomes more important,” explains Simon Hunt, VP of Customer Strategy at Manulife. “We felt that if we could provide a superior service at these moments, anticipating customer needs and supporting them intelligently, it would differentiate us from the competition.”

With that goal in mind, Ember was tasked to identify what those key life moments were, then detail the customer needs and touchpoints around each. This meant looking across internal boundaries and different business units to map all the different ways customers might interact with the whole of Manulife at a critical life moment – and what opportunities there were to improve them.

The Ember team identified 18 specific life moments and provided a comprehensive analysis of actions and touchpoints around each. Again, these were divided into core and non-core and a high-level business case was developed to identify the opportunities and benefits related to improving service at each moment.

Drawing on this analysis, Manulife then devised a target operating model which provided additional resource and expertise for the core services – providing superior “concierge” service at the critical points – while migrating non-core activities to the lower-cost environment. This included people changes as well as processes: amongst them, Bob was appointed Head of Global Business Services, with a remit to transform the Manila operation, which not only supports the Canada business, but also other front and back-office customer process in the US and Asia .

Again, Bob viewed Ember as a key ally in this process. “Ember represented a deep expertise in helping Manulife formulate what is now a core part of our Canadian operation and a growing part of our operations worldwide. They helped provide credibility and clear evidence to support the direction.”

“Like many companies, Manulife was using analytics tactically,” explains Simon Hunt, VP of customer strategy. “But instead of examining a small set of calls round a specific issue, we wanted to get a detailed picture of all the issues that compel customers to call us. Ember was able to provide that, giving us robust data that we could then take action from.”

Accelerating business transformation

By this stage, Ember had become recognised across Manulife for the quality of its insights and understanding of the customer journey. As the transformation gathered pace, Ember was asked to assist in several other areas, including speech analytics to understand drivers of calls to the contact centre.

For Simon, this work was invaluable. “We knew what direction we wanted to go in, but when you’ve got a large operation, you have to be specific: why are customers contacting us? How often? Ember gave us the data to understand that – which we can then use to articulate a business case for change.”

As a simple illustration, Ember’s analysis highlighted how many calls Manulife fielded from customers needing to reset a password. Not only was this taking up agent time, it was a clear irritant from the customer perspective – so a new process has been introduced to allow customers to reset without having to call. This was just one of many opportunities the analysis identified that Manulife has now acted on.

Taking a practitioner’s perspective

An equally important project has focused on Manulife’s reporting capability. While the business had lots of data about different parts of its operation, the information was disconnected – making it impossible to monitor customer journeys across departments and understand the overall experience. Ember examined the data environment and reporting architecture to pinpoint the gaps, then provided practical guidance on how Manulife could resolve these.

In Simon’s eyes, this was where Ember’s unique blend of skills came to the fore.

“In my experience, most consultants who are given a challenge like that would have given us a blueprint for the ideal reporting model. But because they’re practitioners, Ember had a different approach. They knew we needed to start from our existing environment, and gave us a detailed plan for how to get from there to our target. We’re implementing that plan without a single change

From strategy to delivery

As Manulife progresses towards its goal, it has turned to Ember to support in a range of other areas. One workstream involved detailed process mapping, which is particularly important for the transfer of tasks to Manila. The Manulife team had highlighted that there were a lot of undocumented steps in processes, that experienced staff in Canada did without even thinking. Some of these were crucial to overall compliance; others simply help avoiding rework. Either way, all needed to be documented, not only for the team in Manila, but in the longer term to enable Manulife to benefit from automation and further efficiencies.

Some 80+ processes have now been mapped, with more underway. This work in turn feeds into targeted training for the Manila team and improving onboarding for new agents in Canada. Ember is now preparing to deliver the training programmes, along with other learning and development initiatives across Manulife, including training to support the Life Moments strategy and improve not only the customer experience but also employee satisfaction and performance. More broadly, Ember is advising the Manulife team on the activities it needs to focus on to enable it manage its Customer Delivery Plan during ‘Peak’.

Unveiling the New Business

Manulife has made sufficient progress in its transformation that by November 2018, it was ready to unveil a new brand and set of values with customer centricity at the fore. Customer effort is reducing while NPS is on an upward curve, with individual scores higher – though as Simon notes, it takes some time for that to have an effect on the corporate score, which is based on many years of interactions.

The life moments programme has recently won the International Service Excellence Award for Customer Service Project of the Year 2018, with Bob himself being awarded Customer Service Leader of the Year.

Services Provided

  • Enhancing customer journeys
  • Building the business case for change
  • Designing an optimised operating model
  • Process optimisation
  • Digital change and transformation
  • Managed analytics services
  • Learning, training and development

While these accolades demonstrate the impact of Manulife’s transformation so far, the work to evolve the operations continues, however, and Bob sees Ember as integral to that. “I look at Ember as a partner for us on ongoing basis. They were shoulder to shoulder with us as an organisation and as people during the early stages and built strong relationships with me and other members of our leadership group. I’d always seek their counsel.

Some 80+ processes have now been mapped, with more underway. This work in turn feeds into targeted training for the Manila team and improving onboarding for new agents in Canada. Ember is now preparing to deliver the training programmes, along with other learning and development initiatives across Manulife, including training to support the Life Moments strategy and improve not only the customer experience but also employee satisfaction and performance. More broadly, Ember is advising the Manulife team on the activities it needs to focus on to enable it manage its Customer Delivery Plan during ‘Peak’.

The Client View

“Ember represented a deep expertise in helping Manulife formulate what is now a core part of our Canadian operation and a growing part of our operations worldwide. They were shoulder to shoulder with us as an organisation and as people. Beyond their work on our operating model, they have helped us redefine our data environment and reporting. I look at Ember as a partner for us on an ongoing basis.”

- Bob Buiaroski, Head of Global Business Services, Manulife

“With Ember, we really got the sense that their goal was to do the right thing for our business. They bring the experience of being practitioners, so quickly understand what’s required in different situations. Best of all, they are willing to get involved in making change happen – whether that’s by delivering the information and insights themselves or upskilling our team.”

Simon Hunt, Vice President of Customer Strategy, Manulife

About Manulife

Manulife Financial Corporation is a leading international financial services group that helps people make their decisions easier and lives better. We operate primarily as John Hancock in the United States and Manulife elsewhere. We provide financial advice, insurance, as well as wealth and asset management solutions for individuals, groups and institutions. At the end of 2017, we had about 35,000 employees, 73,000 agents, and thousands of distribution partners, serving more than 26 million customers. As of September 30, 2018, we had over $1.1 trillion (US$863 billion) in assets under management and administration, and in the previous 12 months we made $27.6 billion in payments to our customers. Our principal operations are in Asia, Canada and the United States where we have served customers for more than 100 years. With our global headquarters in Toronto, Canada, we trade as 'MFC' on the Toronto, New York, and the Philippine stock exchanges and under '945' in Hong Kong.

Manulife