Wednesday, September 30, 2015

EXECUTIVE INSIGHT: From Customer Agent to Customer Advocate

An Interview with Robert Gofourth

By Patricia Stamas-Jacoby

Robert Gofourth, Vice President, Operational Strategy and Performance, BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina, will be leading a session entitled EXECUTIVE INSIGHT – From Customer Agent, to Customer Advocate at Customer Contact 2015, West: A Frost & Sullivan Executive MindXchange.

In anticipation of the event, Rob Gofourth shared his insights and expertise as we posed the following questions about the latest innovations and best practices in the Customer Service arena:

How did your current customer service initiative—your service quality program—begin?  

We had a typical “check list” quality program.  Upon thinking about natural interaction, a check list simply doesn’t make sense.  The fact is our quality program was netting average scores in the high 90’s but First Call Resolution (FCR) was struggling. 

What made you decide to implement this program? 

We partnered with the Corporate Executive Board and examined a competency based quality program.  We ran a pilot with the competency based form and had a significant improvement in FCR. 

Can you share some of the process around creating this program? 

We selected 6 competencies and redesigned the form.  We then ran a pilot among like teams with like calls.  We did a post call survey.  We saw an increase in satisfaction as well as improvement in FCR.

At Customer Contact West, you will speak about turning customer service agents into customer advocates through a competency based approach. Can you expound on this? 

By switching our approach from a perceived check list to a competency based program, we move to a more natural interaction.  In addition to that, we added some minor but powerful empowerment tools like the ability to send out a congratulations or sympathy card.

Can you share some of the lessons learned and successes you’ve had with a competency approach? 

In retrospect, we should have taken a more simplistic approach to the competencies.  For instance, one of the competencies is Resilience.  We found that some of our agents had a difficult time with some of the descriptors and even definitions.  We recommend   keeping it simple.  We have had great success with agents who are “good” agents but under the old program, they could not be “themselves” and struggled.  The competency based program lets someone be themselves. 

As we all know, today’s customer is increasingly attached to their mobile device. How does mobility fit into the customer service picture at Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina?

Mobility is extremely important to us and is a key part of our marketing and service roadmaps. 

Do you offer any “mobile-first” Customer Service options? 

We do offer mobile options to our customers as part of their member benefits.  This primarily focuses on services from their medical providers and wellness options. 

I recently read that most new Customer Service initiatives are not profitable. Has this been your experience in general? Has the Blue Cross quality program been profitable? 

From a profitability perspective, there are a number of inputs into the profitability of a health insurance member.  However, we have been able to anecdotally measure the leading positive impact which helps form value based decisions on offerings. 

How about retention rates? 

We have seen service quality as a differentiating element in retention in the traditional products offered.

Rob Gofourth is a multi-faceted Customer Experience and Operations professional who has provided Process Improvement expertise as Vice President of Professional Services at Insite Managed Solutions, led Enterprise Risk Management and Operations at Citizens Property Insurance and worked as an Internal Consultant at Sitel.

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