How De Vereende found a catalyst for change at Turner

Executable growth strategy and conditions for execution

De Vereende, an insurance company specializing in special risks, aimed to achieve higher efficiency, create room for new initiatives, and improve customer and employee satisfaction. The company enlisted the help of Turner to conduct a quick scan of all core processes. “We needed assistance because we didn’t yet have the knowledge and expertise in-house,” says Bert Sonneveld, Marketing and Underwriting Manager.

1. What was the issue that led you to engage Turner? And what made it challenging?

When defining the new strategy for 2020-2023, De Vereende’s management team decided to scrutinize all processes. The company, an insurance company specializing in special risks, identified six themes, one of which was named Service Excellence. “We felt that our processes were not optimally designed,” explains Bert Sonneveld, Marketing and Underwriting Manager. “We could work more efficiently. Additionally, many of our customers don’t actively choose us. They come to De Vereende because they have nowhere else to go. Their customer journey is already negative before they even interact with us. They also pay significantly more than they were used to with regular insurers. We can explain this well. So when they come to us, we want them to have an excellent experience, both through excellent service and by eliminating inefficiencies in our processes. This can create room for new initiatives, an important goal of the program.”

Within the management team, Sonneveld is responsible for the Service Excellence theme as the client. The project leader is John Rijsdijk. He mentions that many employees themselves had already questioned whether their work could be done more intelligently. “It was also the voice of the employee that encouraged us to get started.”

The challenge in redesigning all processes was that De Vereende had no one with experience in this area. “We had no process owners, no process managers, no process methodology like Lean Six Sigma,” lists Sonneveld. “To prevent running into mistakes that others had already made, we brought in Turner. We needed assistance because someone had to get the ball rolling. We didn’t have the knowledge and expertise ourselves.”

2. What led to the breakthrough? In terms of content, change management, and/or project management?

John Rijsdijk emphasizes the significant value of the quick scan conducted by Susanne Chamalaun and Martijn Suiker from Turner at De Vereende. “The quick scan provided us with a comprehensive overview of 24 processes, both primary and support processes. It exposed the bottlenecks. Fresh eyes force change, don’t they? The quick scan confirmed what was happening in various areas. It formed the basis for building the project plan.”

All processes revealed bottlenecks. When asked for examples, Sonneveld mentions the collection procedure and IT. “Both departments were structured in a very traditional way, solely responsible for their own processes. Through the quick scan, we discovered that it would be much better to also look at the end-to-end processes. Turner made it clear that we should view them from the customer’s perspective, from the initial contact to the final payment. The collection department mainly focuses on getting an invoice paid, but the customer experiences it differently. This was an area where we could truly achieve significant improvement.”

3. How was the execution achieved?

De Vereende and Turner developed a plan together for implementing the new way of working. All De Vereende employees receive a minimum level of training in Lean Six Sigma (Yellow Belt), all process managers become Green Belt certified, and two colleagues have achieved Black Belt certification. “We really want our own organization to have this capability,” says Chamalaun. Almost half of the processes went through the figurative car wash in 2021, with the remaining half scheduled for 2022. “Turner took the lead in the first car wash, the second one was a joint effort, and starting from the third, our newly trained Black Belts took responsibility,” Sonneveld explains.

This collaborative approach contributed to the initial results. “What I appreciate is that Turner looks at what is necessary in practice,” says Rijsdijk. “Turner brings its philosophy and experience but tries to integrate it with the existing methodology. This gives the new way of working a better chance of taking hold.”

However, De Vereende wasn’t done there. The changes also needed to lead to a new culture of continuous improvement. The change story was at risk of dilution, but Chamalaun insisted on allocating extra time for it within De Vereende. “If it stops after the car wash, and the new methodology is only supported by Turner or our Black Belts, we haven’t achieved our goal,” says Sonneveld. “We must teach ourselves to always focus on the goal of Service Excellence: customer orientation and employee satisfaction. This ultimately led us to focus on continuous improvement within the Lean Six Sigma system over the next two years, making it an automatic process.”

4. Are there benefits for all stakeholders? Customers, shareholders, employees, management, and society?

“We aim for an increase in customer satisfaction by a certain number of points, as well as higher employee satisfaction and a specific efficiency gain,” says Sonneveld. “Higher customer satisfaction is for the benefit of the customers, higher employee satisfaction is for the benefit of the employees, and the efficiency gain is for the benefit of the shareholders. That covers the most important stakeholders.” However, the benefits don’t have to be purely quantitative, adds Rijsdijk. “Initially, some colleagues were skeptical, but now there’s a positive vibe surrounding the program. The fear that some employees had, that the efficiency growth would render their work redundant, has disappeared. It’s also about the space created for new initiatives. Not everyone realizes that this is also a benefit.”

5. What was the main dilemma, and how did you handle it?

“People are willing to continuously improve, they also see the benefits, but their regular work still continues,” describes Sonneveld the main dilemma. “They ask themselves: What takes priority now? The customer who needs an answer immediately, or the future customer? They don’t yet consider it an integral part of their work. Thanks to the reflection provided by Susanne, Martijn, and our own Black Belts, that perception is slowly changing. It needs to be made more concrete for some people.” Rijsdijk adds that the project and the management team put a lot of effort into making the term “continuous improvement” more tangible by engaging and maintaining ongoing conversations with the employees.

“Turner made it clear to us that we need to view the end-to-end processes much more from the customer’s perspective.”

Bert Sonneveld, Marketing and Underwriting Manager at De Vereende

Photo: Peter Arno Broer

“We achieve rapid change that validates the new strategy.”

Susanne Chamalaun, Director of Financial Services

Photo: Peter Arno Broer

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