Implementing Agent Ideas for Better Customer Relations

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By Barbara Buchanan

When it comes to generating ideas that work the best ones often come from frontline staff. More companies are waking up to the fact that generating, collecting and implementing staff ideas is key for offering a dynamic and customer focused service.

Bright Ideas Pay Off

Anne Palmerine UPMC Customer Engagement and Enrollment Senior Director

Anne Palmerine UPMC Customer Engagement and Enrollment Senior Director

Putting into practice contact center agents’ suggestions empowers agents as Wells Fargo and UPMC Health Plan have discovered. UPMC customer engagement and enrollment senior director Anne Palmerine, who manages a 250-strong call center, says, “We see using their ideas as an important factor in motivation. We will generally have them be part of the implementation team. The reward is now they have more responsibility and the opportunity to do something different which develops their career.” Wells Fargo’s national client service manager for treasury services Heather Magaha says as that in addition to recognition her bank now offers cash incentives. “We will give a monetary reward as long as the idea is viable and doesn’t already exist. This has helped increase the number of ideas which surface.”

It’s Good to Talk – and Listen

UPMC has successfully adopted a system for ensuring employees’ eureka moments don’t fall on hard ground. “We engage them in lots of ways to get their feedback and see how we can make it a better place for the customers and also the employees,” explains Magaha. As well as an electronic suggestion box the insurer has ’round table’ and ‘huddle’ meetings where agents share what they have accomplished and look at how things could be done better. “They decide what was the best idea and we will work on how to implement it, if it’s a realistic idea. It’s really about listening and hearing what people have to say and documenting it so that we don’t forget it.”

In fact the weekly huddle meetings, where staff in a particular team spend 30 minutes at the beginning of their shift discussing how things are going, are a result of staff feedback. Palmerine says because these meetings are small and intimate staff often feel more comfortable about sharing their thoughts. The company also has weekly round tables where one to two members from each of her six teams meet weekly to brainstorm how to make things better.

Process Plus

UPMC has significantly reduced customer enrollment-related delays by implementing an agent’s suggestion to use web chat internally. Palmerine explains often agents would take calls from customers keen to get a prescription or doctor’s appointment but whose enrollment had not gone through due to some anomaly or paperwork delay. “They would have to refer the issue to enrollment who would get the answer and call the center in two to three days.” However, now agents can put the caller on hold and talk to enrollment staff via web chat to fix the problem so the customer can go ahead and get their prescription or doctor’s appointment. “We saw a huge lift in first call resolution and staff felt far more empowered that they could help members.” Palmerine adds UPMC has now extended internal web chat so agents can contact pharmacy and premium billing easily too.

Making Things Simpler

Magaha says the 320 contact center agents she manages have weekly team meetings where they are free to discuss whatever springs to mind. She adds they have direct

Sean Hawkins, Contact Center Manager, Noted Industry Authority, Writer

Sean Hawkins, Contact Center Manager, Noted Industry Authority, Writer

access to share their ideas with whoever in the organization can help make them a reality. “They know their idea will be heard and taken seriously. We track what happens to the idea and we get back to the originator to tell them it’s going to be implemented.” Her division recently implemented a frontline service officer’s suggestion to make it easier for customers to close accounts. “There was one specific treasury product associated with an account which took longer to unwind and this was delaying things. The client service manager recognized that it was this one product so she decided to change the internal process to make it in line with the other products and now it’s a much smoother customer experience as a result.” This has proved particular helpful for some sectors such as real estate management companies where clients often need to close and open accounts as their portfolio changes.

Sean Hawkins manages a contact center offering technical support for a software provider which has introduced a suggestion box and an Einstein committee. “We brainstorm ideas no matter how far- fetched. We throw out the wildest ideas and see where we can take it.” He adds the agent has the chance to become involved with other parts of the business to make the idea happen and this often leads to promotion as project or operations manager. “It allows them to know there’s more to do than answering the phones day in day out and it gives them the recognition they deserve.”