Case Study: Implementing 'ContactOne' at Swiss Re

2018 SSON Award Winner for Excellence in Innovation

In the days since our March 21 Awards Gala at the Orlando SSOW, the SSON has reached out to Stefan Sieger, Head Customer Experience & Digital Delivery at Swiss Re (, who was  responsible for the overall design and set-up of 'ContactOne'. In a short video and an in-depth Q&A (see below) he shares interesting insights behind this innovative global "one-stop-shop" for internal services – explaining how ContactOne is acting as a catalyst to drive internal digital transformation by aiming to offer consistently positive customer experiences.  



What was the business rationale for establishing 'ContactOne' across Swiss Re?

In 2015, Swiss Re's Group Operations defined the vision of 'Operations Inc.', asking employees: "How would Group Operations behave if it were a commercial enterprise that sells products and services and needs to make a profit?".  It called for challenging the divisions to find new ways of working together to provide internal customers:

  • Easy access to Group Operations services
  • A seamless client experience
  • Someone who understands their needs.

It was hoped that creating a single service platform would make it easier to track customer requests and provide greater visibility as to which services were delivered in which locations at what quality.

How would you describe what the ContactOne team has achieved at Swiss Re?

Working closely with experts from each division, the ContactOne team redesigned how Group Operations delivers services, based on an optimal customer experience. This begins with a globally standardized service portal that automatically displays (also on mobile devices) information, tools and procedures specific to each country/city/user.  Other locations can be viewed with one mouse-click.

ContactOne Digital Design

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If users cannot easily find directly online the information, products or services they need, the ContactOne Service Desk offers 24/7 support. Service agents are trained and equipped to answer standard requests and can seamlessly pass requests to specialists using a common global service management platform.  Online forms support complex workflows and approvals.  

All customer requests are tracked to ensure response times are visible to all in the end-to-end delivery chain. Any customer feedback is systematically reviewed as an idea source for continuous improvement.

What benefits was Group Operations looking for?

A primary focus of ContactOne has been on increasing customer satisfaction, which is measured with customer surveys, as well as by reviewing in detail all qualitative feedback received from customers throughout the year.

Another focus has been efficiency improvements, both for the employees, as well as for the service delivery teams across each of the divisions.     

Trends over time and division-specific patterns are closely monitored (e.g. by sharing performance results transparently between management and delivery teams).

What are the day-to-day benefits in the eyes of ContactOne customers?

By having quick and easy access to find what they need, 15'000 front-line employees and managers can reduce the time they spend navigating internal processes (HR, IT, Logistics, etc.). This helps keep them stay focused on their core duties that bring most value to the company. 

Approach taken

Where did you begin?

For each of the 150+ services in scope, a review of the existing procedures and documentation was made by a small team of internal consultants and editors. Updated content was presented in a new, simplified service portal that offered a standard 'look and feel' and navigation for all services. The review and rewriting of service description information and instructions – through the eyes of a typical (first-time) customer – triggered the need for a clean-up of long-established procedures and a refresh of outdated information that had grown organically over the years.  It also called for a clearer accountability across global processes and teams.

How long did it take?

The journey from inception to full global rollout of services in the original scope lasted 2.5 years. An initial live pilot with a limited scope was conducted in two locations (Armonk NJ + Hong Kong) to demonstrate the proof of concept.  The first three divisions were rolled out globally at the end of 2015, while the remaining divisions were fully onboarded by January 2017.  The project team remained actively involved in supporting post go-live activities until mid-2017, after which full control was handed over to the permanent operational teams.  Members of both the operations and project teams are now involved in continuous improvement activities and introducing further innovations (e.g. Artificial Intelligence assistance for Service Desk agents, chat bot technology, etc.).

Who was involved?

The project core team consisted of a 10-15 dedicated internal resources, who worked closely with numerous (part-time) representatives from across all Group Operations divisions to co-develop and test the new concepts and content.  Two in-house consultants orchestrated the project and change management activities.  External consultants and contractors were engaged in particular for:

  • User experience design: consistent, user-friendly look and feel of the new service portal (fully-aligned with the company intranet)
  • New technology introduction: design/implementation support and testing of call centre telephony solutions and expansion of the global service management platform

How did you deal with globally-standard vs. locally-specific content?

Because every ContactOne portal user sees by default whatever service information is relevant to them in their location, a huge content management exercise was undertaken by the internal consulting and editing team to collect, describe and validate with division representatives the most critical information about each of the 150+ services.  One particular challenge was to identify and accurately reflect 'local' variations in information, policies, tools or processes – by country or even by location – taking into account differences in local laws, IT systems, physical facilities, as well as other operational realities. 

To what degree were internal customers involved?

ContactOne's internal consultants and editors worked in tandem with topic specialists from each division to review the ease of use of each of the 150+ services in scope.  This systematic review triggered the investigation information and process 'disconnects' that had to be resolved prior to the ContactOne global rollout.  Every new ContactOne portal service description page was reviewed for quality (i.e. simple & accurate core messages about each service; accuracy from a local country/city perspective).  The portal design were professionally tested by an external agency to ensure a highly-positive user experience could be attained on both desktop and mobile devices.

ContactOne Service Navigation

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Did the team follow any particular methodologies?

An overall milestone-based approach was adopted, which incorporated agile design techniques (e.g. design sprints).  For certain high-complexity processes (e.g. recruiting and onboarding), a 'lean' review was conducted post go-live to identify opportunities for streamlining, integrated with Swiss Re's Human Capital Authority Matrix for approvals.  This led to the creation of the recruiting and onboarding 'Navigator' which guides both line managers and delivery teams through all process steps, triggering (via workflow) notifications for approvals whenever required. 

Editor's note: Swiss Re was also selected as 'Runner up' in the 2018 SSON Award for Excellence in Process Improvement for its end-to-end recruiting and onboarding process redesign, supported by the Navigator.  


Operational Results

What did you encounter in terms of measurable volumes and impacts? 

To illustrate, in the first 11 months of 2017, ContactOne handled 605,000 inquiries (roughly 2,600 per workday).  Customers are offered the choice of multiple channels, which as of Nov. 2017 included:

  • ContactOne portal: self-service (45%), request support (16%)
  • Phone (16%)
  • Email (8%)
  • Direct contact (14%) e.g. small local offices

The first contact resolution rate over the past year has averaged 72%.  Waiting times for the ContactOne Service desk have dropped to an average of 27 seconds in the first 6 months of 2017 compared to an average of 46 seconds in the same period in 2016. 

Customer responsiveness (e.g., reaction time) to customer inquiries has been consistently high – meaning: when a ticket is opened, actions to act on customer requests are triggered within the target timeframe more than 95% of the time.


What kind of hurdles did you face?

Given the sheer size and complexity of ContactOne, there were many hurdles to overcome along the way.  One of the key challenges, however, was to create buy-in for the idea that a professional multi-divisional shared services team could act as a face-to-the-customer by handling seamlessly and effectively routine questions and service requests on their behalf. 

To overcome this initial reluctance, trust had to be earned by sitting with each service expert to ensure they understood the vision and what's in it for them.

Now, one year later, Swiss Re is experiencing continued strong confidence in ContactOne, as evidenced by divisional requests to expand the number and scope of services they offer to customers via ContactOne. 

What lessons learned might you wish to share?

1)  Continuous improvement is key
ContactOne went live with what was announced as a 'less-than-perfect' solution.  This approach was a conscious tactic to introduce a continuous improvement mindset across Group Operations employees and its internal customers.  Both delivery teams and employees are invited to provide feedback and improvement ideas via multiple channels. Every idea is followed up and actions/decisions are communicated back to the idea originator.

2)  The customer experience does not end (or start) at the Service Desk. 
Thus, a professional change manager (who has direct access to stakeholders at all levels) needs to be active in all key meetings (while also orchestrating in-between). The needs of both customers and delivery teams need to be considered, and both parties need to be engaged.  One key to success it is to appoint and train service representatives per service, who are made accountable for both service design/delivery as well as service quality (feedback, continuous improvement). 

3)  Projects of this complexity call for more than a traditional project management approach
Aligning and integrating 150+ services across 30 countries requires working in an ever-changing 'ecosystem' involving so many variables that old-style planning/controlling becomes impossible.  Our focus instead:

  • Inspire people through a shared vision
  • Assemble a great team
  • Set milestones to achieve together
  • Meet daily to identify and remove obstacles. 


Final thoughts 

Reflecting on the ContactOne experience, what stands out?

Having gone through this collaborative yet intense exercise together with specialists from each of the partner divisions has helped strengthen overall transparency and trust.

By looking end-to-end across business processes, ContactOne has challenged traditional silo approaches to offer a significantly improved customer experience enabled by digital technology.  The strong emphasis on continuous improvement has triggered a customer feedback driven culture where process enhancement ideas are 'crowd-sourced' across customers and delivery teams.

What should other organisations think about when embarking on such a large-scale initiative?

At the time of launch, roughly 150 services (and their underlying processes) had been reviewed and redesigned 'from the ground up' to provide an optimal customer experience. Subject matter experts in each division were 'challenged' by non-specialists (e.g. ContactOne editors, project team members and 'mystery shoppers'), calling upon them to "make yourself easy to do business with".  By focusing on the most frequent customer needs for each service, Swiss Re's Group Operations have been able to streamline requests for information and services, freeing up additional capacity for division specialists to focus on more complex activities. 


About Swiss Re

The Swiss Re Group is one of the world’s leading providers of reinsurance, insurance and other forms of insurance-based risk transfer, working to make the world more resilient. It anticipates and manages risk – from natural catastrophes to climate change, from ageing populations to cybercrime. The aim of the Swiss Re Group is to enable society to thrive and progress, creating new opportunities and solutions for its clients. Headquartered in Zurich, Switzerland, where it was founded in 1863, the Swiss Re Group operates through a network of around 80 offices globally. It is organised into three Business Units, each with a distinct strategy and set of objectives contributing to the Group’s overall mission.


A customer-oriented, one-stop-shop (i.e. one online platform with one worldwide phone number) offering Swiss Re employees easy access to over 200 global/local services from across Swiss Re's Group Operations.  ContactOne forms part of an overall 'customer promise' and is serving as a catalyst for change.

ContactOne customer base: Entire Swiss Re Group (approx. 14,000 employees plus contractors/consultants)

Services provided: Initially, 150 internal services were offered worldwide via ContactOne and its partner divisions: IT, HR, Legal & Compliance, Corporate Real Estate & Logistics, Group Communications and GBS (incl. expense reporting, invoice handling, requesting an RPA assessment, etc.).  This also included numerous cross-divisional 'services' (e.g. Recruiting & onboarding, Organizing business events, etc.).  That number has grown to more than 200 since the initial global roll-out was completed in January 2017.