If 6 months ago I was told we’d all be working from home with children, pets and loved ones underfoot, I wouldn’t have believed you. It’s such an out-of-scope idea and although SSP consistently prepares for the worst when it comes to our business continuity plans, we’d never think to have to apply something on a global scale. But we’re still here… going incredibly strong to support our customers and colleagues in these unchartered waters.
So whilst my home office has become my more permanent workspace, I’ve had a chance to take stock of what’s happening beyond my role in SSP and the ripple effect it has had for both our staff and our customers’ staff alike. I’ve been working at SSP now for 15 years and, in that time, I’ve had the pleasure to see our data and software innovations allow our customers to achieve more and access more information with less effort, contact their customers quicker and through more means, and react to market change quickly with price and rating fluctuations. We know that like us (where we’ve gone from 8 offices to over 800 in just 3 working days at the beginning of March), all of our customers have mainly moved offsite to keep working. But to do all of that, there was a lot of work done under extreme time constraints. In our case, we needed to provide every employee with a laptop and home office equipment alongside maintaining and bolstering our own VPN servers to cope with the consistent demand that will be required 24/7 due as we have colleagues from New Zealand all the way around to the US. We have managed and consistently offered our next level of service this whole time.
We also prioritised moving our Customer Helpdesk staff and the software involved in supporting our users: I am thrilled to report that that there’s been no drop in call-handling since the lockdown began. We are as available as ever; you can reach us in the same ways as you ever could; and our approach to this change in work habits has been a mixture of fun and sobriety – as noted from our own dedicated and ever-updating webpage on Working from Home.
One of the members of my team, Peter Gregory, who was involved in the development of our dedicated COVID-19 website, is a social fisher and the situation has led me to reflect on the adage “give a person a fish, you’d fed them for a day. But show them how to catch a fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” We knew that our customers will have had their own demands right now and giving them as many ways to be self-sufficient is incredibly important - now more than ever. The localised lockdowns for us has had enormous ramifications for our customers who are used to on-premise servers, hot-desking and job-sharing, and so we know the transition into social distancing was a little harder for some. In the UK, we’ve taken the time to contact a representative of each and every customer to discuss their needs, the support required from us, their financial situations, their software concerns they may have. We are considering all angles in all ways to help. Our staff and our customers are SSP’s priority… always. And, like with the fish analogy, giving companies independence to react to this crisis within their own means is something we’re incredibly proud of. We are here to fulfil a digital need, support the customer through the development and transition, and partner with them to provide the necessary after care and professional services so they can work on their own.
Still, as I review the news and the days begin to blur, I look at the headlines from our customers in the UK and Africa sharing all that they’re doing to follow a kind of Pay It Forward ideology – and I can think of two distinct examples provided by my colleagues Rupert Bidwell and Bal Badhan. One of our customers in Namibia has chosen to cut its premiums to offer reduced prices, and others are responding to their customers’ needs in such similar ways. We have seen our customers be able to lower their premiums to pass on their benefits to those who need it most. Our customer in Namibia didn’t have to seek assistance from SSP to change their rates; they’ve been able to take and implement the action in such a short timeframe and impact their pricing to stay competitive in days like this because our software is designed for this very purpose. We have built our software in this way so that our insurer partners can change prices from their homes. We provided the Africa-based insurer with a dashboard to help them pinpoint system availability issues for staff working from home. It was quickly established that availability issues were being experienced due to bandwidth issues; there could be a marked difference in bandwidth between ISPs in the same location. Our dashboard helped them to cross-reference the home locations of staff and ISPs to determine the best ISP that colleague should access. As we very well know, a poor internet connection can cause additional stress for all concerned and will keep on supporting however we can.
One of our own UK insurer partners has also reported to their relationship manager, Bal, how they are so pleased with the level of independence that SSP’s Insurance Platform has given them over the years of working with us. A UK insurer was in a position where their immediate focus was to get their front-line teams working from home, deploying existing project resources. Our role in this expedited transition was to work with them to ensure all necessary meetings would still be able to continue through SSP resources such as Microsoft Teams and the DocuSign process. In cases where the customer could not access SSP documentation through their normal means, SSP’s staff used Teams to help them to review such items. Bal is part of our Account Management Team and all of those within that team are putting in daily calls to ensure consistent communication and this will continue until the customer regains full access to their systems. It’s purely by working closely (well, digitally closely) together that it’s been key to our success.
And in my years within SSP, I’ve seen our own software offerings change by reading the market, listening to our customers, and developing our own products such as SSP Intuition – they’re all underpinned by using the best of our staff to help with information security, and moving to work within the AWS Cloud ourselves so that we could easily scale up and down to meet our varying customer’s demands. We take our data security very seriously and just before our offices closed globally, we were thrilled to receive the news that we’d been awarded our ISO 27001 assessment to gain accreditation for compliance against the Information Security standard. This came after a very thorough audit of our policies, procedures, staff controls and premises.
And on a different scale, whilst I’ve mainly been talking about insurers above, we never forget our brokers. Hazel Hand, Laura Beasley and Silvia Petrini have reported that our broker customers are still able to trade normally through the remote-working capabilities and we’ve been hard at work to keep all channels of communications open and I would encourage you to keep getting in touch with us if you need support in any way.
A partnership with SSP means that we’re in this stormy COVID-19 ocean together but we’re keen to be a lending hand – or proverbial lifeboat – to all. Our tech allows our customers to keep going right now with minimal impact.
We’ll see you out the other side.
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