The end of insurance as we know it: Aflac Japan

Eiichi Matsuo, General Manager at Aflac Japan, describes how his company is embracing Agile methods to respond quickly to customer needs.

Publish date: 15 February 2021
Author: Aflac Life Insurance Japan Ltd.
Theme : Innovation

What makes your company truly innovative?

In this period of rapid change, it is difficult to predict the business environment of the future. However, as part of Aflac Vision 2024, Aflac Japan is leaping forward in this environment with the aim of becoming the leading company in “creating living in your own way.” In order to do so, we are focusing our efforts on understanding core customer needs and proactively working together with organizations outside the insurance industry to provide value through innovative customer-centric solutions. At the same time, we are continuously breaking down existing structures in order to trigger disruption, actively generate new ideas, and accelerate Aflac initiatives.

What are the major goals and results obtained from your ongoing innovation strategy?

With the corporate philosophy of “Customer first,” Aflac Japan wishes that each customer can create and live a fulfilling life in their own way and places great importance on caring for each customer.

Based upon this core value, Aflac Japan is leveraging Agile methods to understand customer needs and to quickly provide services meeting those needs. In doing so, we can identify the most critical areas for improvement and deliver innovative solutions for our customers. For example, Agile methods were leveraged to understand claim filing and payment processes from a customer perspective and resulted in initiatives that vastly improved the convenience and speed of these operations.

We evaluate our performance using two indicators, the number of policyholders and the percentage of satisfied customers. As of March 2020, there are 15,350,000 policyholders (approximately 1 in 4 households) and 65.2% of survey respondents indicated that they are satisfied customers (2.4% were unsatisfied).

How is a culture of innovation achieved across your company?

Aflac Japan is establishing a culture of innovation through a combination of top-down and bottom-up measures. In today’s rapidly evolving business environment, Aflac Japan management recognizes the importance of innovation to more efficiently and effectively understand and meet customer needs. Starting from the company-wide management plan, the importance of innovation is communicated regularly from the management team throughout the organization. In addition, Agile methods are leveraged company-wide to thoroughly understand customer needs and quickly and flexibly provide products and services meeting these needs. Also, successful examples and lessons learned are shared company-wide through internal portal sites and videos and used to improve training sessions and generate additional innovation.

How does your company manage the overall innovation process?

A company-wide effort called “Agile@Aflac” is underway to leverage Agile methods to quickly and flexibly address drastic changes to the competitive environment and diverse customer needs. Using Agile, cross-functional teams made up of members from IT, Policy Services, Marketing, and other divisions use an experiential approach and iterative processes to innovate and quickly deliver value. In doing so, even as the environment evolves, teams can continuously provide the maximum value possible.

In order to fully embrace this approach, Aflac Japan changed its organizational structure, created a framework for delegating authority, and revised HR regulations. Cross-functional Tribes and Squads focused on value delivery are now part of the official organization and are empowered to innovate and deliver that value. In addition, resource allocation, evaluation, and compensation frameworks were revised in order to support this new organizational structure and to further enhance innovation, operational efficiency, and effectiveness.

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