The first comprehensive HPO diagnosis of an American organization has now been completed. And what an organization it is! A true HPO. The company showed an average HPO score of 8.7 (minimum HPO score is 8.5) and highly profitable growth – in spite of the recession. Moreover, Longfellow Benefits has been recognized with the annual Boston’s Best Employer Award for five years in a row. This organization is, without a doubt, the perfect example of an HPO.
You don’t have to be a customer to always be right
Longfellow Benefits is a broker (i.e. intermediary) that advises companies in choosing the best health insurance policy, retirement plan or executive benefit systems for that company. The organization was founded in 1999 by four partners, all of whom continue to work for the organization. Longfellow Benefits’ strength lies in its service model: everything, absolutely everything, is oriented towards satisfying and retaining customers. They achieve this by assigning a team of five individuals to each and every customer, which always includes a partner and whose sole task is to meet the needs of that customer. The team members are given considerable freedom in their work. If, for example, an additional investment is required in order to inquire into a matter for the customer, a team member can approve this directly without having to consult a partner first, regardless of the amount of the investment. In addition, absolutely no pressure whatsoever is placed on team members to sell more to the customer, since sales is the responsibility of specific sales representations who are not part of the team. The effectiveness of this service model is clear from the fact that, in its 12 years of existence, Longfellow Benefits has lost only one customer.
Empathy, honor, dignity and respect
The organization also devotes considerable attention to maintaining its culture, which can best be described by the keywords of empathy, honor, dignity and, above all, respect – not only for each other but also for customers and suppliers (the insurance companies). This means that everyone is treated in the same pleasant manner, that everyone is encouraged to share their ideas, and that partners are highly accessible to both customers and employees. It is therefore no surprise that employees have not hesitated to stay with the company for ten years.
How can the organization remain an HPO?
The HPO diagnosis revealed an aspect of particular interest for the future, namely, “How can the organization remain an HPO while undergoing continuous growth?” To date, the organization has been managed as an entrepreneurship, one that is driven by opportunism and improvisation, but this kind of drive can be challenging to maintain in the long term. The complexity found both internally and externally demands more structure, but without altering the spirit of the organization. During the final presentation, we devoted considerable attention to this challenge and provided a number of suggestions for the future. It was a highly informative experience to conduct an HPO diagnosis at Longfellow Benefits and the Longfellow Benefits case and its best ideas will certainly constitute an inspiring chapter in the English version of the HPO book to be released in 2011.
André de Waal, July 2010, Boston
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