The Fly in the Bottle

March 26, 2012

By Tom Myrick, Financial Protection Services Expert

Tom Myrick led a bank-owned insurance business to over $1billion in revenue.  He applied his experience as a process owner, product manager, and consumer products marketer.  Most of all, he instilled in a discipline of listening to the customer.


“What is my aim in philosophy? To show the fly the way out of the fly-bottle.”

Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations 309


A fly in an open bottle, frantically bouncing off the glass in efforts to get through it, never thinks to simply turn around and walk out.

Our insurance business discovered a “best in the world” supplier for processing customer claims in the scenic town of Kent, a short train ride out of London.  This company, of no more than 100 people, developed an innovative way of handling claims for the income interruption protection (credit insurance in the UK) that cancels customers’ loan payments if they suffer a layoff, illness, or disability.  All this company wanted to do is that one process for that one product, and do it better than anyone.

When we sat down next to their employees to watch them in action, we were stunned to see they had turned the typical claims process around 180 degrees.  Instead of directing customers to review instructions sent at account-opening, fill out forms, obtain proof of layoffs from ex-employers, and get proof of illnesses and injuries from doctors, they did all that work FOR the customers.  How could that possibly be cost efficient?  Here’s how:

  • They spent extra time on the customer’s first phone call, completing the online claim request form on the spot, so it would require only a signature.
  • They obtained employer and doctor names, immediately googled them to find the addresses and phone numbers, and promised to obtain the substantiations needed.
  • During that initial call, the questions they asked would screen out customers unable to qualify for benefits, thereby saving the work of going through the entire process only to be declined.
  • They had eliminated the weeks of back-and-forth phone calls, mailings, and faxes we were used to dealing with in the U.S. — wasted motion that drove our costs upward and customer delight downward.

They had invested more in the initial contact, but more than offset it by eliminating most of the follow-ups while wowing customers with the ease of the process.