Auto and General (A&G) is an insurance company with big dreams. Part of the international Budget Insurance group, A&G is headquartered in the UK, serving over 9 million customers from 31 offices around the world. The Australian operation, which employs over 1,000 people, was established in 2000 to ‘give customers smarter solutions to safeguard a brighter future’.

This philosophy is working, and today hundreds of thousands of customers rely on A&G for their car, home and contents, life, income protection, and travel insurance products, which are sold directly or white-labelled through well-known brands such as Budget Direct.

A&G’s success is driven by a focus on every step of the customer journey, identifying friction points that might impede business performance and user experience. A friction point could be a flawed process, slow load times, or a consistent failure in a web page on a certain browser. The company realised that improving the performance of its full technology stack—the hardware, applications, the web interfaces—was crucial to improving the digital customer experience.

Struggling to see the wood for the trees

In the past, if issues were found on the A&G website, trying to fix them often involved numerous people trawling through log files and running database queries. As Matthew Brunton, A&G’s general manager for online systems, described it: ‘It was hard to see the wood for the trees.’ According to him, while numerous teams throughout the company—developers, operations, support—were involved in fixing problems, these different teams often failed to agree on where or what the problem was, or even if there was a problem at all.

Worst of all, issues were only being investigated when they became apparent. The company realised it needed a radically different approach, one in which issues were discovered before they caused problems for customers.

Finding New Relic

A&G began looking for a monitoring solution to optimise the performance of its applications, and the New Relic Digital Intelligence Platform was the fastest, easiest solution. The company intended to test a number of providers, but the speed and ease of implementing New Relic meant it was already functioning and delivering results before Brunton’s team had a chance to assess alternatives. New Relic was installed and working in a day, whereas another solution under consideration took six weeks to set up working data feeds. As Brunton says, ‘By then New Relic was ensconced in our business. We’d already become addicted to the information that we were receiving.’

Today the company relies on New Relic APM 360 to ensure a premium user experience for more than 30 crucial applications, while New Relic Browser allows A&G to monitor, in real time, the performance of those apps across all types of web browsers. For example, Brunton and his team can see how quickly JavaScript is loading, or if there’s an issue with a particular function. They can track it to see if it relates to an error that only occurs for customers on specific browsers.

New Relic Infrastructure provides a monitoring and analytical interface across all platforms, including the mainframe API—analysis of which had been extremely problematic—as well as eight servers in a blue-green deployment.

New Relic Insights provides A&G with an easy-to-read overview of key metrics in real time. In such a complex operating environment with a myriad of potential customer journeys, Insights helps to provide ongoing analysis of key aspects of the company’s online operation.

An ROI that’s easy to calculate

This newfound visibility has had a profound influence on the way everyone at A&G works. As many as 20 video screens displaying Insights dashboards are now bolted to pillars throughout the offices. These screens show real-time performance metrics, including everything from infrastructure availability to download speeds for critical web pages—helping the team correlate application performance to real business outcomes.

‘It’s been very easy to see the impact of New Relic’, says Brunton. ‘For example, we’ve always known that the faster the site goes, the more business we write. Now we can see the extent of that. It provides the metrics to drive decisions on hardware and IT work.’

Before his team had access to this insight, Brunton says, it was hard to make the case with business leaders for increased expenditure for IT improvements. But now, he says, ‘We have the hard facts to support our case. We can show how the performance outcomes will impact the business, so an ROI is easy to calculate.’

New Relic is used daily by A&G’s account managers, general managers, lead developers, development managers, and the infrastructure teams. Across the organisation there’s a shared understanding of the importance of improving application performance to drive a better digital customer experience.

‘We have the hard facts to support our case. We can show how the performance outcomes will impact the business, so an ROI is easy to calculate.’

Matthew Brunton General Manager for Online Systems, Auto & General

A culture changer

Since implementing New Relic, Matthew Brunton says the company has seen concrete benefits:

  • It saves A&G employees time because issues are easier to identify and rectify. The proactive management of the customer experience has also reduced calls to the contact centre.
  • It reduces website errors and speeds up load times, which the company says directly correlates to increased sales.
  • It improves customer experience and makes A&G easier to do business with.

Another significant benefit has been New Relic’s role in changing the culture of Auto and General. Now, business leaders and IT managers share a common cause in improving the online experience and a mutual understanding of how performance metrics, at every level in the technology stack, influence business outcomes.

A&G plans to use New Relic even more as it expands its digitisation strategy into the cloud. Using New Relic means they will be able to ensure their dynamic hosting environment continues to deliver the best possible experience to A&G’s customers.