Ross Students Build Future Capacity at the SSC

A key goal of the Business & Finance strategic plan is to say “Yes, how might we?” in responding to customer needs. At the Shared Services Center (SSC), this means asking: How might we remove administrative burden from our customers? How might we find new solutions to old problems? How might we empower staff to listen to customer needs and find ways to deliver service excellence?

To help find answers to these questions, the SSC has enlisted support from four graduate students from China to work on an action-based learning project. The students are all employees of the People’s Insurance Company of China (PICC) and are at U-M for an executive education program at the Ross School of Business. Ju Qiu (“Rachel”) is a Business Manager who assists in maintaining the international business between PICC and overseas insurance brokers. Wang Shaowen (“Steven”) works in marketing and is in his thirteenth year with PICC. Yongkun Li (“ Felix”) is the Deputy Director of the executive office, overseeing administrative and logistic functions. Lingfeng Cai (“Tim”) is studying mathematics and economics, and is a financial accountant for PICC. Despite their wide range of professional experience, they are all universally focused on customer service in their roles.

Currently, the SSC has a rapidly growing list of new service requests and process improvement ideas. However, SSC staff are busy each day processing customer transactions – over 1 million per year! The graduate student project team is helping the SSC understand how automation could free up capacity, using their expertise to look at areas of opportunity for automation, capacity planning, and how to prioritize new potential SSC services. This project will assist the SSC to identify the resources and develop the potential to expand the center’s scope of services as the SSC and customer needs co-evolve over time.

The graduate students shadowed with the Accounts Payable and Accounts Receivable teams, both of which have many processes that involve repetitive steps. This gave the students insight into the daily lives of staff in these areas, and the pressure they are under to complete their work. After shadowing, they consulted with Ross School of Business Professor Christopher Williams to analyze the skill sets of both teams. They also sought assistance from a Librarian at the Kresge Library, Jennifer Zimmer, to find additional information on automation systems and how other organizations had implemented similar projects.

Recently they consulted with the SSC’s Service Management Quality (SMQ) team, SSC Manager Derrick Skrycki, and SSC Director Pam Gabel. With these insights from senior leadership, they have begun to create a prioritization system for new service requests. The prioritization framework they are investigating involves matching current skill sets, and identifying training opportunities to meet gaps, to what might be required to provide new service requests. From this information, they can make recommendations for the best order for the SSC to absorb as additional capacity is freed up through automation and continuous improvement initiatives.

The graduate students just wrapped up their fourth week with the SSC. When asked what one thing stood out to them most about working here, they unanimously stated the difference between culture at the SSC compared to Chinese business culture. They were very impressed with how accessible senior leadership is, and how employees are encouraged to speak up to make suggestions. The amount, speed and transparency of communication astonished them, specifically the transparency of leadership in these communications. Felix describes Pam Gabel as a charismatic leader. He enjoys the way she openly conveys her thoughts to all, which is something that would not happen at most Chinese companies. Tim has been impressed with how relatable Kevin Hegarty’s Friday morning emails are, even going as far as to quote one in the bi-weekly project status update.

Rachel, Steven, Felix, and Tim will be working with the SSC until May 11th.

If you are interested in engaging students, you can reach out to the Ross Office of Action Based Learning or the Center for Positive Organizations.