Guarantees for the if in Life,” implies that people no longer have to worry about the unknown in their lives. This is one of Metropolitan Life Insurance Company’s (MetLife’s) campaign slogans suggesting that they can provide for customers. Currently MetLife ranks as the one of the countries top insurance companies. It has had a long history of public and customer service since its start in 1863, when a group of New York businessmen came together to begin the leadership of MetLife. From the start is has dealt with leadership and trust issues and was not until 1879 that a successful plan, organization, leader, and control materialized. Over the past century MetLife has emerged as a global force in the areas of group and personal insurance, pensions, and investments. Even in the midst of success MetLife has struggled to hold together its company in a way that is ethical. There have been moments of doubt and some unflattering “if” statements about the sales and marketing practices of MetLife. In 1992 internal investigations showed the deception in the selling techniques of employees in the Southeast Region of MetLife. This deception and unethical workmanship had the potential to destroy the 129 year history of the Organization. Although MetLife’s decisions prior to the publicity of the crisis in 1992 were poor, they took necessary action and have made great strides to right wrongs and strengthen the Company and provide for customers.
MetLife has set long and short-term goals and function off of a vision of building “financial freedom for everyone” with an emphasis on customers and their needs. MetLife has faced many challenges in the past years that they have overcome. Even in the beginning MetLife had to adapt and adjust surviving for awhile on the profits of contract work. Eventually its first effective president emerged; Joseph F. Knapp set into action insurance programs based on an English model that drew in industries and workingmen. This first challenge promoted the establishment of MetLife’s commitment to success. Not only have they overcome challenges from their past but also still face and consider future challenges which they may be faced with.

MetLife is a leading provider of insurance and other financial services to millions of individual and institutional customers throughout the United States and it is its responsibility to meet both its customer’s needs and wants. A misrepresentation and deliberate falsification of information destroys the trust and reputation of MetLife. One of the greatest challenges MetLife overcame was allegations brought against the Company in 1993 after an internal investigation of the Tampa office. The Tampa office, consisting of 120 reps, 7 sales managers, and 30 administrators was previously known as one of the Company’s most profitable offices. The claim was brought against MetLife and Rick Urso, the branch manager, due to its employees’ sales practice and misrepresentation of its insurance policies and the unethical use of calling its employees “nursing representatives.” There had been questions of Urso’s pre-approach letters and terminology of “nursing representatives” in a 1990 audit, but in the end nothing but praise for high sales was taken from the investigation.

Trust is defined as “the belief in the integrity, character and ability of a leader” and as an insurance company MetLife failed to demonstrate this. The challenges MetLife had to overcome were not only ethically based but also forced them to regain trust from prior customers. Trust became a challenge for MetLife due to inadequate representation of the insurance they were selling. Management faced these challenges with a positive attitude and through hard work and determination were able to overcome them. MetLife has made improvements within its management department to now include training for future employees preventing the occurrence of future problems.

MetLife information and research courtesy of our partner and the post sponsor Woodside Towing Service.

Carnival Cruises

Cruise vacationing was the fastest-growing segment of the leisure-travel industry in North America.  It’s estimated that in 1970, about 500,000 passengers embarked on cruises; that number in 2004 has grown to more than 10 million passengers.  Whereas in the past ships were meant for business travel, today, ships were meant for pleasure-cruising.  Ships offered a variety of activities and entertainment to its guests – casinos, bars, cabaret acts, pools, shuffleboard, bingo, etc.  Luxury cruises offered educational enrichment programs, spas, sports bars, and more.

The Carnival Corporation was launched in 1972 as a company that promoted “fun ships.”  The cruises would provide the aforementioned activities and entertainment as well as other amenities in order to create an amazing customer experience that would not be soon forgotten. Carnival consisted of 12 cruise lines and 75 different ships, which targeted each American market segment and Europe as well.  Carnival cruises typically carried more than 60,000 passengers at a time.

Carnival’s information systems group was made up of 320 employees, charged with enabling technology on the ships (a point of sale system and a property management system).  The POS system allowed staff members to ring up sales in the various ship outlets that guests could use to make purchases, such as bars, shops, the photo gallery, etc.  This consisted of a graphical user interface which permitted employees to choose items to be charged, accept special company forms of payment (Sign and Sail cards), and to post charges to a guest’s on-board account.  Because of this, guests could enjoy themselves without paying for anything until the day before debarkation.

Carnival is trying to figure out how to leverage its very strong brand to gain a more competitive position in the market place, commanding higher margins.  The ships are almost always full and the guests are always satisfied, so the company needs to decide what it can do to improve customer loyalty.  Lastly, due to the two information systems currently in use, Carnival has a tremendous amount of information at its disposal, such as customer purchasing data.  Carnival needs to figure out how it can use that information to better understand its customer and tailor cruises to meet their needs; this would hopefully lead to a profit.

Caregroup

CareGroup was formed on October 1, 1996 from a 3-way merger of local hospitals.  It was formed to increase the contracting power against HMO’s, decrease excess supply from local hospitals, and to drive down costs while improving the quality of patient care through integration.  CareGroup contained a dedicated staff of health-care professionals who provided high quality, personalized care to patients.  CareGroup offered a vast array of health services to residents of eastern Massachusetts in various setting, such as academic health centers, community hospitals, and physician offices.

When John Halamka took control of the IT organization in 1998, each hospital was running its own system which had not been changed since the merger.  By 2002, all of the hospitals were using a common system, installed by Cisco, which relied on state-of-the-art Meditech software.  The system served 3,000 physicians, processed 40 terabytes of data per day, and handled 900,000 patient records; all this information was controlled by a staff of 200.

One of the researchers on the CareGroup network began experimenting with a knowledge management application based on file sharing; it was designed to locate and copy information across the network automatically.  Unfortunately, as soon as he set the program up, he had to leave for 3 weeks to support his wife who was having a baby.  In his absence, the program went wild.  It began copying and transferring large amounts of data from different computers across the network.  The overload of information caused the network to crash, which caused major problems for all 3 hospitals.  Web access was cut off, patient records could not be retrieved, and the clinical and financial information systems were not working.  The CareGroup IT staff attempted to diagnose the problem, but had tremendous difficulty.  It was at this point that Halamka called Cisco, a global software giant, asking for urgent assistance.  Cisco sent out its best support engineers who arrived on the scene within 24 hours.  The Cisco support staff worked around the clock to fix the problem.  While the Cisco staff was working, hospital employees were scrambling to find all of the different paper forms that computer software had replaced.  All hospital functions, like X-Rays for example, needed to be performed manually.

The computer network was restored on November 18, and Halamka ordered that processes be transitioned back to the computer systems in a gradual and staggered manner so as not to overload the system or cause any type of further chaos.

Mr. Halamka pointed out a number of key lessons that he and his staff could take away from this experience.  He felt that the most important lesson was that although IT is a great thing to have, you cannot rely completely on it; total dependence on IT can cause major issues.

F-Secure Corporation

F-Secure Corporation, originally known as Data Fellows, was formed in 1988 as a security software provider.  Its purpose was to protect computers from outside intrusions, mostly viruses.  At the time, there were some viruses in existence, but they were not very prevalent.  Kimmo Alkio, Chief Executive Officer of F-Secure, believed that as technology progressed, security software would become increasingly important as the number of viruses increased; Alkio saw a great opportunity that other security software providers had not taken advantage of – software as a service.

A typical security program consisted of a virus engine, firewall, parental controls, spam control, anti-spyware feature, and a control feature for applications.  The industry’s standard value-chain model, known as the Shrink Wrap model, began with the component providers.  They would create the security components and license them to security software vendors.  The vendors would take the multiple security components and create a user-friendly interface, organizing the components as they saw fit.  Distributors would then sell the products to retailers, who would provide a channel for the customer to purchase the products.

In the year 2000, F-Secure took a different approach by bundling security software with internet providers.  Instead of creating a security software product and selling it to stores, F-Secure entered into deals with internet service providers to offer the security software with the internet connection; in addition, the consumers would receive customer service for the product.  F-Secure was able to establish a new market channel and increase its profits tremendously because it was the first corporation to offer customer service with their software.  At the end of 2007, F-Secure had grossed $117 million.  By 2008, F-Secure was bundled with 173 different ISPs and had expanded globally into 39 different countries through acquisition; it also offered security for mobile devices as well.

Siemens AG

Siemens AG was founded in Berlin in 1847 by Werner and Johann Georg Siemens with the help of Johann Georg Halske.  The business began as a small precision-engineering workshop that manufactured electrical telegraph systems, warning bells for railways, and wire insulation.  As the company spread telegraph lines, it other branch offices in places like London and Russia.  By 1998, Siemens employed over 416,000 people in 190 different countries.  In that same year, sales were in excess of 60.1 billion euros.  Siemens had evolved to offer a multitude of products and services, such as electrical engineering, medical engineering, networks, mobile phones, and a variety of business services.  The industry had changed in regard to its offerings, with companies now providing customer-oriented solutions and service instead of solely providing a simple product.

As part of a company restructuring, Siemens absorbed ICN, an information and communication network employing 65,000 workers in over 84 countries.  Many businesses needed consulting in addition to the products that ICN could provide, so Joachim Doring, president of ICN Group Strategy created a knowledge management tool called ShareNet.

ShareNet consisted of a knowledge library, which contained thousands of knowledge “objects”.  Each object was structured to explain what had been learned in projects currently underway or completed in the past.  These objects were divided into two categories: solution objects – describing technical or functional solutions to a problem; and environment objects – which included data on specific markets, projects, partners, competitors, and customers.  In total, these objects were meant to capture experience-based knowledge.  This information was posted in online forms and could be viewed and discussed by anyone connected to ShareNet; it also allowed people to ask questions and for others to provide possible answers and solutions.  Users were rated based on the quality and amount of objects they posted and the questions they answered.  At certain point levels, users were given prizes ranging from textbooks to free training.  ShareNet allowed people from countries across the globe to share their ideas and experiences, and answer questions on topics they’re familiar with to help others.  Best of all, it was free to use.

By 2002, ShareNet had over 19,000 subscribers in countries all over the globe and there were over 20,000 knowledge objects in ShareNet.  Locally, ShareNet generated 120 million euros in revenue for ICN and saved over 500,000 euros in costs.  However, due to the industry climate, ICN underwent reorganization, and ShareNet’s team was cut back significantly.  Using these numbers and proposed profits for the future, Doring and his team would have to prove that ShareNet was worth the cost of running it (especially since ICN had been paying to run the program for the past few years) and provide a strategy on where to go from their current position.