How Ruby and the bots came to Suncorp’s rescue after lockdowns hit

When Suncorp lost its Indian business processing operations (BPO) in March because of the COVID-19 it called on the experience of Ruby and a team of bots.

Jun 24, 2020, updated Jun 24, 2020
Suncorp has been hit with a $32m backpay bill (pic: Suncorp)

Suncorp has been hit with a $32m backpay bill (pic: Suncorp)

Ruby was a bot that had been up and running in the workers’ compensation area of the business but she needed colleagues if Suncorp’s business continuity was to survive lockdowns.

Adding to its woes were the thousands of Australians ringing the banking and insurance company to cancel or suspend their policies because of the financial impacts of the lockdowns in Australia.

But the actions Suncorp took have been so successful that it is now ramping up its automation.

“Our business continuity planning at Suncorp never accounted for a BPO partner … located in India going into lockdown due to a global pandemic,” Suncorp’s insurance automation delivery manager Vicky Leo told a video conference

“We’d always relied on being able to shift work from one location in India to another, so when we lost the majority of our offshore operations workforce in March, we had to act fast and relax some of that stringent governance that we had in place to get stuff done quickly,’’

Suncorp also had a trick up its sleeve. Since 2017 it had been ramping up its automation with bots. Ruby was the curiously named bot that had taken over the processing of workers’ compensation payments.

In the space of the Easter weekend, a Suncorp staffer, whose name was held under wraps to prevent other companies headhunting him, built a bot to handle the processing that was normally done in India.

In the past few weeks my team has been incredibly busy. There’s been no planting veggie gardens while working from home …  automating all of that work that we needed to do because we no longer had a BPO doing it for us,” Leo said.

To cope with the pandemic in Australia, customers were being offered discounts or policy waivers.

“The actual processing of that – so the balancing of the policy and the movement of the money to our write-off account – took about 10 minutes per transaction, and we were getting hundreds through each day.

The bot took over 75 per cent of those transactions, with the 25 per cent of exceptions going to a human team to process.”

Suncorp’s head of automation Tim Johnson said as part of its business continuity plans the company had to manage the way it brought back to Australia the work traditionally done in India.

Automation was one way we managed this transition however the scope was limited.

“For Suncorp, this has also provided us with an opportunity to accelerate the group’s focus on automation and look for opportunities to be more effective in how we deliver for our customers,’’ Johnson said.

“Where processes are simple and structured, automation or ‘bots’ are generally more accurate and faster however the real value is through how people and bots collaborate to deliver faster, better service to the customer.

“A great example of this is our zero-touch claims process in insurance where we have streamlined the motor claims experience for customers and reduced the processing time from 48 hours to 5 minutes.’’

So successful has the transition to automation been that Suncorp has automation teams in each of its lines of business.

“We’ve automated – at last count – over 6 million transactions across the group a year, which is something that we’re really proud of.”

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