Driving Transformative Change in Accident Management Through Operational Excellence

 

Imagine a world where an auto accident is only a minor inconvenience instead of a month-long waiting game. This is what we’re driving towards, but getting there requires taking a long, hard look at our own processes and seeking ways to make them better. In other words: Operational Excellence.

What is Operational Excellence?

Operational Excellence is a philosophy that prioritizes continuous improvement to streamline processes, eliminate inefficiencies, and foster a culture of innovation. In the complex world of auto physical damages, aka Accident Management, Operational Excellence is essential to ensure that all processes are working efficiently to reduce cycle time and costs.

Carrying the Operational Excellence banner for Agero’s Accident Management line of business is Lynn Bresnahan, Director of Operational Excellence.

Tell us about your Operational Excellence experience 

Before joining Agero, I spent 15 years in consumer goods focusing on how to make incremental improvements that add up to deliver impactful change. This translated into Accident Management really well since every little process improvement adds up to have a big impact on reducing claims costs and improving the customer experience. Focusing on these continuous, incremental improvements has been a difference maker for us, which becomes apparent when looking at the quality of service that we deliver for our clients.

What’s your approach to Operational Excellence?

Structured problem solving to find the root cause, primarily by applying three methodologies: continuous improvements, minimizing waste, and reducing risk and error. All three methods go hand-in-hand to deliver repeatable efficiency improvements by looking at the current state, the future or ideal state, and defining how to get from one to the other.

It’s an iterative process – if something doesn’t work, go back to step one and start again.

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What’s your first step in that process?

Data gathering and process mapping to find the gaps. Are we missing any key data points? Where are opportunities for miscommunication or human error? Asking these types of questions helps to figure out the defects.

In Accident Management, a defect can lead to long cycle times that are expensive for an insurer, but also leaves the customer without their car for days or even weeks. By focusing on the data and process behind what we at Agero can control – the towing component – we can identify opportunities to improve that process and make it more efficient. Some insurers and vendors overlook the accident tow, despite how impactful it can be for controlling costs and cycle time, but we have a team specifically focused on reducing friction in that process.

This has helped us to identify improvement opportunities. One of those opportunities led to the creation of our Mission Control offering, which has virtually eliminated those longtail events and reduced our clients’ loss costs and claims expenses.

Are there any other examples where Operational Excellence has improved Accident Management’s performance?

Absolutely! Another opportunity identified by this approach was to improve customer engagement. Many drivers don’t know the importance of providing timely and accurate information for a claim. When additional information is needed from a customer, it can often take over a week to update, leading to high storage costs for insurers. To remove that customer hurdle of having to respond to an email or voicemail, we can send them a text message to fill in that information gap, faster. That became the basis of our Smart Messaging capability, which has cut our clients’ storage fees almost in half!*

For both Smart Messaging and Mission Control, it's about using technology to do the repeatable tasks so that our talented people can be there to support the more difficult events that require an empathetic touch. The result is improved efficiency without compromising the human element, which is one of the many factors that led to 2023 being our strongest, most efficient year in Accident Management yet!
*for cases that require customer outreach

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What do you see as the biggest challenge for Accident Management?

Ultimately the entire process stems from how quickly the customer reports the accident. If it’s not reported from the accident scene, it creates opportunities for downstream defects and inefficiencies such as multiple tows. Therefore, one of the biggest challenges is how to make it easier for customers to report the accident.

Crash Response is a great solution to this challenge, since it automatically alerts our team when an accident happens, without requiring the customer to reach out to their insurer. As a result, we help to avoid the challenges of long storage times, body shop backlog, and rising costs of secondary tows.

What opportunities in Accident Management are you most excited about?

In terms of new opportunities, we’re moving from a legacy platform to a more intelligent design that will drive impactful process changes. By moving to a best-in-class platform, we’re unlocking potential across quality and cost management, opening the door for new opportunities and next-gen products while enabling transformative change for existing products. It’s a long road, but it’s like eating an elephant: we’re taking it one bite at a time.

More broadly, it’s really rewarding to work on projects that you know will have a positive impact on people’s lives. Where a roadside event is a really bad day for drivers, an accident can be one of the worst experiences of someone’s past six, 12, or even 18 months, which is why we have a dedicated team focused solely on Accident Management, whereas others might consider this to be an afterthought.

It’s a tough challenge to solve, but we are passionate about improving that experience wherever possible. This is also true for Agero as a whole: we are all collectively driven by that opportunity to be there for people when they really need it.

Last question: what makes Operational Excellence so essential to Accident Management ?

This ties into my previous point: delivering a better end-user experience during a really stressful and difficult time. We’re focused on delivering high efficiency and high quality that results in a better customer experience, and Operational Excellence is what allows us to do that on a repeatable scale.

An accident is never going to be something that people look forward to, so improving that experience is a never-ending goal. That’s what motivates us to keep looking for gaps and improvements, which is the essence of Operational Excellence.

Without a structured approach to problem solving, those little defects can quickly add up. Even just one bad event out of a million is still a negative experience for that person, so Operational Excellence is essential in the sense that it motivates us to say “Great – we solved that problem! Now, what’s next?”

 
 

Meet the Author: Lynn Bresnahan - Director of Operational Excellence

As the Director of Operational Excellence for Agero, Lynn is responsible for driving quality and efficiency improvements through Operational Excellence methodologies that solve problems to root cause in a structured way, find and eliminate waste, build a "Right the First Time" mentality, while incorporating Human Factors Design. Prior to joining Agero, Lynn built her expertise delivering step change improvements in operationally complex environments at scale leading OPEX transformations, manufacturing operations teams, and developing new products at major CPG companies. Lynn earned her BS in Chemical Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and her executive MBA from UCLA's Anderson School of Management.
 
 

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