My firm was recently contracted to analyze the current effectiveness of a national insurance agency, particularly its call center. Within the original proposed contract, I will address several key issues. It is my intent that this practice will address and limit unpredictable behaviors, as well as unproductive commissions, especially with new clients. Some changes are conducted to enhance organizational effectiveness, all within the context of the values and strategic framework in place. Incremental changes are a constant. These incremental changes include, but are not limited to, some organizational restructuring, new technology, or new personnel practices. Working on personnel issues allows positive and lasting low cost change. For change to occur, management needs to ensure that it projects to its employees that they are valued and not just to be discarded. Successful organizational development results in (1) effective strategic and operational plans; (2) team development and effectiveness; (3) leadership development; and (4) added value, quality, competitive products, or services.
Health Care Industry Woes
Due to rising costs, increased competition, government regulations, and the emergence of consumer-directed care, the health insurance industry is experiencing vast amounts of pressure to reduce costs and improve service quality. Even though the current trend is to solve these issues with significant investments in technology and people, as well as outsourcing, health insurance companies still have difficulty answering basic performance questions such as: Which claim agents have the highest adjustment rate?
Which providers/members call most frequently?
Which members are most satisfied/dissatisfied with their health insurance customer service experience? These questions are critical, and health insurance companies need to answer in order to gain and maintain a competitive edge. To remain competitive in a difficult economy, many call centers are in cost-cutting mode. Some are successfully trimming fat, but many others are seeing efforts backfire in the form of new and/or hidden costs, frustrated employees and dissatisfied customers. Because of the nature of random call arrivals, an unfocused cutting of all services does not work well for call centers. Insufficient staff, or squandering of other resources can quickly lead to long customer queues, additional contacts (e.g., when customers use multiple numbers or contact channels to reach the organization) and intolerable agent occupancy rates.
Achieving efficiencies while maintaining optimal service requires harnessing principles that ensure you are cutting in the right places. Getting it Right
It is possible to cut costs successfully while maintaining optimal service levels if you adhere to the following principles. Revisit your customer access strategy
Work to prevent contacts at the source
Optimize staffing and schedules by increment
Calculate staff and telecommunications costs together
Improve processes and systems -- now and forever
Pool agent groups - as feasible
Identify organization-wide opportunities
Revisit your customer access strategy.
A prerequisite to any major effort to reduce costs should be to review and, as necessary, refine the priorities identified in your organization's customer access strategy. A customer access strategy is a framework of standards, guidelines and processes that defines how the call center will serve customers. And yes, you have one; whether it's documented, effective and used by managers -- or not -- every organization has one. The customer access strategy must define:
Customers you will serve (e.g., customer segments);
Access channels (telephone, email, Web, etc.);
Telephone numbers, email addresses, and URLs;
Hours of operation;
Service level and response time objectives;
Services provided; and
Tracking and analysis (the methods/systems...