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Robert Gofourth

VP of Operational Strategy | BlueCross BlueShield (BCBS) of North Carolina

Customer Contact Leadership Council: To help retain customers following US health care reforms, BlueCross BlueShield (BCBS) of North Carolina used our insights to evolve its contact center quality control and coaching processes. The results: better performance, higher customer satisfaction, and improved employee engagement.  

Client Challenge

  • Safeguard customer retention following health care reform.
  • Drive increased customer engagement.
  • Improve contact center performance.

Results

  • 15% improvement in FCR rates
  • Improved customer satisfaction
  • Significant ROI
  • Improved employee engagement

Challenge

US health care reforms have changed BCBS’s business. Formerly, a successful health care insurer had to be good at two things, says Robert Gofourth, VP of operational strategy and performance: paying claims on time and underwriting risk.

“That’s all changed. In health care today, you can’t move a risk off your books just because you think it’s too high. And standardized pricing makes it much easier for customers to go to a competitor if they’re unhappy with your service. It means we all have to work much harder to make our offering more ‘sticky’ for customers.”

Gofourth’s wide remit includes reporting and analytics, strategy and innovation, business readiness, quality, and compliance. His team builds programs to optimize performance and ensure the company’s operations align with business strategy. These programs are then handed over to Gofourth’s business partners, including the BCBS contact center.

Today, the key to retaining customers year after year, says Gofourth, is customer engagement. “We need customer contact personnel who do more than provide a transactional queries service. They need the knowledge and right behaviors to guide customers, and solve their problems, throughout their experience with BCBS.”

In looking to improve customer engagement, Gofourth turned to CEB, now Gartner, which has provided him with data-based research and customer service insights since he joined BCBS in 2014.

Solution

The first step, says Gofourth, was to look again at the quality form that helps ensure a high and consistent standard of service across all customer calls. Instead of a basic quality checklist, Gofourth introduced a new form, based on six competencies that our research and CEB Ignition™ Diagnostic for Customer Contact showed were core to contact center performance.

“The old forms required answers to very black and white questions,” says Gofourth. “For example, ‘Yes, I used the customer’s name three times.’ Completing the competency form is less straightforward, because it’s designed to empower our service professionals to solve customers’ problems, which we know is what drives engagement.”

BCBS used our diagnostics and benchmarking to define the competencies, which Gofourth then focused on embedding across the contact center through coaching.

“We used the CEB effective coaching model, and the benchmarking surprised me by revealing that some of the supervisors we thought were not strong coaches actually were, and vice versa. Looking at what distinguishes good and bad coach behaviors was very eye-opening and allowed us to focus on the right people and to develop those behaviors where we needed to.”

Our insights have also helped BCBS change how it recruits its contact center staff, says Gofourth. “When I arrived we hired for empathy, and now—thanks to your input—we hire for problem solving, which is proving a much better indicator of performance.”

As well as access to our research, Gosfourth greatly values the extended peer network that is available to him through the CEB Customer Contact Leadership Council. “It’s immensely helpful to talk to people who are going through the same problems as you, especially when you can continue to leverage those contacts when you return to the office.”

Results

Gofourth says BCBS has seen a noticeable difference in contact center performance since deploying the new competency-based form and effective coaching model.

 “We’ve seen, in a very short space of time, a 15% improvement in first contact resolution (FCR). And our reps are now engaging customers by giving them a holistic experience that solves a need instead of just taking a call.”

As every call center manager knows, improved FCR rates mean not only happier customers but also reduced cost. “We’ve seen a tremendous increase in customer satisfaction,” says Gosfourth, “but there is also a significant return on investment. Every repeat phone call costs something, and it’s easy to calculate that cost.”

It’s not just BCBS customers who are more engaged as a resut of the program—employees are, too. “Our contact center has low staff turnover and the highest employee engagement scores in the company. I’ve worked with contact centers for much of my professional career, and that is highly unusual!”

Gofourth continues to use our insights to further develop the contact center team, but sees that as only part of the overall value to BCBS.

 “You bring benefits across the enterprise, whether that’s in IT, Risk Management, HR, or Operations. If you want to move to the next level in today’s business environment, you need data-driven decisions based on solid research. And that’s what I get from CEB services.”

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