Agent of the Year Award-Winning Stories
Would you like to find out what exceptional customer service looks like from the frontlines of organizations across varying industries? Each year, SQM compiles a library of customer experience interactions from our clients which make up our Agent of the Year program. These stories can be about how to turn a dissatisfied customer into a satisfied one, create a memorable experience for a customer, utilize a concierge approach to resolve a customer's concern, or how a single employee can change the practices of an entire organization through their own unique customer experience approach. Read our five most recent award-winning stories below.
2021 Agent of the Year
Success In Adapting to Best Practices
She goes the extra mile to improve her calls and ... goes above and beyond with each of her callers.
Madeline is a true rockstar on our team. Every member that she speaks with receives the same level of respect, empathy, and urgency, whether they need an ID card, simple benefits, or have an urgent pharmacy request. There are many members who will only speak with Madeline and are willing to wait on hold or request a call back if Madeline is not available. Not only did Madeline have a 96% certification for 2021, but she achieved an 87% FCR rate, 96% in Issue Resolution, and 98% in Customer Satisfaction.
In sharing some of the comments left by our members below, you can clearly see that Madeline is valued and our members appreciate how effortless the experience is when they speak with Madeline. Members advise:
“She was very pleasant. She answered my question immediately and resolved my question immediately. She just made me feel very comfortable about calling and inquiring.”
“She was very nice. She didn't lose her patience with me. She went above and beyond to help me and let me know about stuff getting set up in the system, and where I could look at my claims. She took time to help me with everything, even things that I didn't know anything about. She took time to help me, and she did help me. That will cut down on me having to call them again for information, because I can look at it myself.”
“They were kind, courteous, understanding, and they even followed up on the issue today to confirm.”
“Just very kind, took care of the issue, and she actually called my previous employer to speak to their representative and had me on the line just to make sure that they were getting everything I needed.”
Even when Madeline is pulled in many different directions during the day she does so with grace and kindness, and it is evident in her scores. She is also extremely helpful to her peers, assisting with answers to challenging member scenarios in the Team Chat, and no matter how difficult a member’s issue may be, Madeline is always very kind, gentle, and determined to resolve the issue. Madeline is more than deserving of this award.
At BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina, we identified an area where we could improve our FCR, CSAT, and Resolve Rate results from the SQM Call Summarization Best Practices materials. We followed a standard closing, but wanted to improve the experience for our members to ensure first call resolution, so we refreshed and improved our agent closing process using best practices. Madeline Rodriguez already had a strong closing of her calls, however, was not used to deliberately providing the thorough closings outlined by SQM. During July & August of 2021, there was a focus and contest for CSPs to go through four steps at the conclusion of each call: summarize by restating why the member called, quickly recap the work the agent did on the call, repeat any actions that were needed by either the agent or member, and then finish with saying, “Have I resolved the reason for your call today?”
As stated, Madeline already had a good closing, but agreed she could do even better by following these suggestions. Changing ones call flow can take time and effort, and it was no different for Madeline. The behaviors that Madeline exhibited in this one example are behaviors that she exhibited throughout the year and which have contributed to her excellent results. Each week the CSPs had one random call reviewed where the ending of the call was reviewed to see if those four parts were done. The agents had no idea which call would be reviewed and worked through many various scenarios to perfect the closing to ensure the member was resolved and satisfied. During the first few weeks, Madeline took feedback, sought feedback, attended calibrations, and worked on improving her call closing. As the results show, once she got her flow down, between weeks 3 and 4, Madeline never looked back.
This example shows how she goes the extra mile to improve her calls and is an indicator of the way she goes above and beyond with each of her callers to provide a World Class Call experience. She not only connects with her callers, but she also supports the call center, and helps others improve. She positively changes the way we do business at BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina.
Madeline Rodriguez – BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina
2020 Agent of the Year
Impacting Lives with a Patient-Centric Approach
Once I built her trust and she allowed me to help, we started seeing results.
To create a positive customer experience, each interaction with the customer needs to be treated as an opportunity. Every time we pick up the phone we have the opportunity to “wow” a customer, retain a customer, or lose a customer. As an agent, I shoot for the “wow” factor, and if I miss on wowing that member, at the very least we can retain that individual. I would like to share a story of how I was able to retain one of our dissatisfied members.
For the sake of not using our member’s real name, I will refer to her as “Beth”. I first spoke with Beth back in 2016 as a result of her concerns being escalated. Beth, who is a mother of two, would fight tooth and nail for her family; however, she found herself at a crossroads in her life. Beth was behind on her self-employment taxes, her daughter had injured her knee, and medical bills were piling up. Each time she contacted customer service her back was against the wall; she had no other option but to demand results. Her calls became increasingly aggressive, resulting in me stepping in. To put it bluntly, I have feared three women during my lifetime: my mother, my wife, and Beth. Beth found herself in a hole, and her hostility was a cry for help.
I found the best way to help Beth was simply to listen and empathize with her. I can remember conversations, at first, which would last over an hour, sometimes completely unrelated to her issues. Once I built her trust and she allowed me to help, we started seeing results. We started small by looking at the family’s medical bills. I had Beth come to my office to meet face-to-face. She brought in a stack of medical bills that I separated into two piles: ones she owed, and ones she did not. We set up payment plans with each provider for the bills she owed. I then called the providers to make proper adjustments for the bills that were incorrect. In doing so, we determined there were thousands of dollars being billed to her in error.
The next order of business was getting her daughter the care she needed. The complications from her knee injury were far too complex for our in-network providers. We made calls to other providers throughout the state looking for an orthopedic surgeon who could do her surgery. It took some time, but we found a specialist that was able to assist. We went through the process of getting authorizations in place, and her daughter had a successful surgery. It would take months of therapy to get her back on her feet. Near the end of her daughter’s recovery, I remember speaking with Beth and she broke down. She was crying, not because of sadness, but because of joy. She was starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
The last order of business was her taxes. I have an accounting degree, so I had a basic understanding of her needs. Even so, her issues were far too complex for me. She found an accountant and we worked together to collect insurance tax documents from 6-7 years prior. Slowly, they plugged away at getting caught up on taxes. Every year during the annual enrollment period I help Beth renew her coverage for the upcoming year. One question on the application asks if you have reconciled your premium tax credit from prior years. For 4 years we had to mark “no”, but in 2020 we were able to mark “yes”.
I can honestly say Beth is a different person now than when we first met. I took a patient-centric approach with Beth. I treated her as an individual who needed help, and the best way to do so was to listen and empathize. To this day, I continue to speak with Beth and believe that our interactions transformed her into a loyal customer.
Jason O’Connell has been with Security Health Plan since 2014. During that time, he has proven to be an integral part of our Customer Service team. He quickly became trained on all of our core product lines and became a licensed insurance agent. Jason handles one of Security Health Plan’s Answer Center locations completely on his own, located in Stevens Point, Wisconsin. He has been our sole representative in this area to assist members both on the phone and in person who comes into the answer center.
Jason was chosen as our internal Customer Service Agent of the Year for 2020. He is so incredibly willing to help with anything we ask of him and does so with such a positive attitude! On top of handling the answer center by himself, he also does a lot of other side projects and extra duties such as assisting with our online chat program, being a subject matter expert for complex third-party administration questions or issues, enrolling members into Marketplace plans, and taking escalated calls from our newer agents if they need assistance.
Jason has continuously improved his SQM metrics year after year. He finished 2020 with a 97% World Class Call Resolution, which was a 3% increase over 2019 and a 7% increase over 2018. Jason continuously has a very high CSR Csat percentage as well. He finished 2020 with a 98% CSR Csat as he did in 2019 as well. Jason’s Call Resolution was 98% for 2020, a 4% increase from 2019. Jason has received multiple positive member compliments over the years and is recognized often for his attention to detail and for making sure the member is not put in the middle. He does an excellent job with our members both in person and on the phone, and also with other agents in the department. He is a great resource used by many.
Jason O’Connell – Security Health Plan
2019 Agent of the Year
Determined to Make a Difference
I Can, I Will, and I Did resolve her call.
I received a call from a member who was on vacation at a Vineyard located on an island. When she outreached to Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont for help, I was determined to make a difference in her day. I listened, showed empathy, and reassured her that I was going to help her. Those few steps I took to resolve her call left an impressionable WOW moment.
While the member shared her story with me, I kept thinking about what I would do in her shoes. How can I resolve this for her? She was stranded at the Vineyard for two more weeks with an injured arm. The only way off the island was by pre-registration for ferry transport. She wasn’t scheduled to leave for another two weeks. The emergency room took x-rays and confirmed she had fractured her arm in two places. The physician referred her for immediate follow-up care with an orthopedic surgeon who was on the island. They refused to see or treat her without a primary care referral. She contacted her primary care provider in Vermont, and they refused to send a referral on her behalf without seeing her first. Obviously, this wasn’t possible, and clearly not an option for her. She was feeling desperate like no one wanted to help her, so she called me for assistance. I felt panic and discomfort in her every word. She was in pain and the last place she needed to be was in between a provider turf war.
After researching her benefits and options I ran into some snags. Although her policy didn't require referrals, the orthopedic surgeon required one. So, I outreached several times to her PCP office and left messages, but no one returned my call. When I finally got through, they indicated they had tried calling but our call volume was too high, and they weren’t going to wait to get through. Although I pleaded on her behalf, they still refused to send a referral to the orthopedic surgeon or submit an out-of-network authorization request. Financially, she needed an out-of-network prior authorization to reduce her out-of-pocket expense. I worked with my team leads and supervisors to brainstorm and find an alternate way to assist my member. My options were limited, as rules restricted me from making outbound calls out of state for pre-service issues without permission. So, I contacted the necessary outreach and obtained the permission needed to outreach to the out of state provider.
The orthopedic surgeon needed reassurance that the member’s plan didn’t require referrals and that I was going to complete an out-of-network prior authorization on the member's behalf so she could get her best level of benefits.
At last, I got through to the surgeon’s office, gathered all of the relevant information, and completed the out-of-network prior approval form on the member’s behalf, and sent it to our Integrated Health Team for review. Finally, I received approval for the out-of-network surgeon. I called the surgeon back, provided the approval information and they agreed to see the member. When I called the member back, I could hear her sigh with relief. She didn’t have to fight anymore, she wasn’t stuck in the middle anymore, and she was relieved that someone had listened.
I put my member's needs first. When roadblocks appeared, I calibrated with leadership to come up with non-traditional options and sought the best route to resolve the call. These simple steps made an impact on the member's experience. Three months later, the member sent me a personalized thank-you letter.
She shared how patient and helpful I was. How I followed through and went the extra mile to help her when no one else would. How appreciative she was that I called her a few days after her orthopedic visit to ensure everything went well. The most impressionable comment she shared with me was, “If you ever feel like not getting up to go to work – think again! What you do and what you did for me made a huge difference.” Her heartfelt appreciation made every step I took worthwhile. With empathy and compassion, I showed her that, “I Can, I Will, and I Did resolve her call.”
Terry Lyn Bicknell – Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont
2018 Agent of the Year
Reminding the Member That the Company Cares
I applaud you and the company for having the foresight in hiring Robert.
Sometimes the difference in a customer’s interaction with their insurer boils down to getting an agent like Rob. I personally have had the chance to sit with Rob to shadow him so I could get to know Horizon and its processes. During each time, Rob has demonstrated what it means to help our members and take them out of the middle of the "insurance process." As a result of Rob’s conversational approach on calls and his effectiveness in helping our members, he’s since become a part of our Concierge team. This is a team that helps key members with a ‘white glove’ approach.
On any given day, Rob and most agents will field between 25 and 35 phone calls. The topics can vary, and the help provided isn’t always a compelling story. Sometimes, however, a member calls in that really does need our help, and it’s what we do during those moments that define who we are. The call that really exemplified what service should look like, is a call from a member who was looking for help sorting out multiple bills he had been receiving. Normally, this would be a routine call, but in this case, it took on a whole new life, as Rob assisted the member in navigating his services and reaching out to various providers to sort out the bills he had been receiving.
What made this call different, was the member had recently undergone throat surgery and was in the recovery phase. He couldn’t speak at his normal volume but needed help working through the claims he had been trying to keep track of and help to understand his benefits as they related to everything he was going through. The task was difficult for our member as he struggled to speak but needed help. Rob understood what the member needed and made sure to help him sort out every part of the member’s concerns. As part of sorting everything out, Rob began calling the providers and making sure the providers were accurately assessing liability for the services they had provided.
The call lasted approximately 2.5 hours, during which time, many agents that Rob conferenced in to help our member were less patient, and often not as empathetic towards our member’s inability to speak as loud as they wanted. Rob intervened multiple times to alleviate any need for the member to explain anything and focus the calls with the helping agents to fully resolve the questions on the bills and claims.
When the call was complete, Rob helped the member work out the 4 months of stress that followed their procedure, as well as understand all that might have been billed. He was able to connect with multiple providers, give clarity to the member and providers, and lastly, helped sort out a delayed prescription that was waiting on the authorization.
The real measure of how successful the call went, came in the form of a testimonial, sent directly to the CEO of Horizon BCBS. Below is that testimonial, which I feel better summarizes why Rob, in my mind, is a World Class Agent and a real advocate for our members:
"I would be remiss if I didn’t apprise you of an experience I had with one of Horizon-BCBSNJ customer service representatives. His name is Robert Mills. I’m a senior (I prefer seenager) customer and had some issues with my account. Additionally, I had recent vocal cord surgery and it sometimes has made it difficult to be understood on the telephone. Robert was very knowledgeable with what I had to discuss, quite personable, most engaging, and very, very polite. But what was most important to me was that he treated me most kindly and patiently due to my difficult ability to speak with this new voice I had inherited. There is no doubt in my mind that Robert was raised well by his family and trained well by your company. Robert makes an excellent ambassador for Horizon-BCBSNJ. I applaud you and the company for having the foresight in hiring Robert and the good fortune in being able to retain him. May I ask one favor from you? Please distribute a copy of this letter to Robert so that he may know just how favorably I appreciated how he performed his duties."
Robert Mills – Horizon BCBSNJ
2017 Agent of the Year
Valuing the Member’s Experience
We value our customers and their experiences.
As many customer service representatives may know, we do a lot of work that may not be appreciated because it is “behind the scenes”, but every now and again, you have a positive impact on a valued member, and that makes it all worth it. One member is all it took for me to feel like I could make a difference, even if it was in a small way.
One morning, I received a call from a mother with a young child. I could tell she had been crying and I could hear the panic in her voice; my heart went out to her. The family was traveling, and her child’s nutrition formula had been lost in the luggage they checked. The mother was worried and had no idea what to do. Additionally, this specific formula that her child needed to survive was expensive and she had no idea where to get a replacement formula. She called around to providers in her area with no success. Feeling hopeless and out of options, she called BCBSVT and reached me.
I reassured her that I understood the seriousness of the situation, and would make sure she got the formula she needed. I also reassured her that I would take ownership of this and resolve her issue. After finding out where she was located, I looked up pharmacies in her area and reached out to each one to verify if they had the specific formula that her child needed. After calling six pharmacies with absolutely no luck, I was starting to get worried, but I didn’t lose hope; time to try a new approach. I met with one of my team leaders, and we brainstormed options to resolve this issue. We decided the best next step was to outreach to durable medical equipment suppliers in that area in hopes they had more information and the formula in stock. Due to restrictions, I was unable to contact suppliers directly, so I called our sister Plan for assistance. The sister Plan representative understood the urgency of the situation and committed to helping me find a resolution. While I remained on the line, she called three local durable medical suppliers that were in our member’s network. Thankfully, the third supplier had the formula in stock. Then, I ensured the appropriate authorization for this supplier was in place, so the claim would not reject. On the member’s behalf, I reached out to the member’s designated nurse case manager and informed her what was going on. She was surprised and grateful for my level of effort to find a durable medical supplier and put authorization in place. Everything was completed within two hours of the member reaching out to us for help.
I was excited to call the member back and give her the good news. I knew how incredibly stressful and scary this experience was for her, and the thought of her child being without the formula was a serious concern for me as well. I told our member where to pick up the formula, confirmed that we verified the specific formula was in stock and ready to go, and authorization was in place, so she would not have to pay out of pocket for the formula. I could hear her voice go from worried to relieved which made everything I had done completely worth it. She told me that she knew we were just her insurance company and that it was not our problem, but she was thankful she could focus on her family and not spend hours on the phone. I reassured her that this is exactly what we are here for, that we value our customers and their experiences, and we truly want to help see them through any healthcare obstacle that may arise.
I feel fortunate that I work for a company that values the member experience and supports its call center staff in taking the time needed to ensure first-contact resolution. By working collaboratively with my team lead, our Integrated Health nurse case manager, and our sister Plan, we were able to take this member out of the middle of a difficult situation and work together to see her through. That is why I love my job!
Jennie Stevens – BlueCross BlueShield of Vermont
Supervisor of the Year Award-Winning Stories
Are you a new supervisor? A tenured supervisor looking for ways to improve your team's performance? Or have you recently been promoted to oversee a group of supervisors and need some direction on what a world-class supervisor does? If so, you’re in the right place! Each year, SQM compiles a library of supervisory role stories from our clients which make up our Supervisor of the Year program. These stories can be about how a supervisor worked with an agent to work on skills/knowledge for a call type that they historically were unable to resolve, how a supervisor created a personal connection to an employee that allowed them to provide targeted encouragement and support, a supervisor “talking the talk” and getting onto the phone for an agent to handle a tough or escalated call, or how they took a poor performing agent and turned them into a customer experience wizard.
2021 Supervisor of the Year
Coaching Resiliency Through Change
When there is trust on both sides, and you have your employee’s buy-in, people will give their all.
Alia Bawazer is a supervisor that leads with encouragement and makes time for each person on her team. Alia understands that coaching is most effective when given at the soonest availability, and she is there on the spot when her team needs her. She wants to build trust with each member of her team. Alia loves to recognize her CSRs by sharing the team’s success stories with Leadership.
Agents from Alia’s team have shared the following:
“Alia has helped me develop consistently since day one on her team. She continues to encourage me and support me by continuing to provide feedback. Alia makes it a point to thank me for the work I do. I always feel like a valued employee on the team which helps me stay focused and drives me to look for areas to excel in my career with the company.”
“I was struggling with calls, and Alia provided me with tips. She went over how to use soft skills, listened to my concerns, gave full explanations of procedures, and helped me create a plan to improve. Alia made me feel not afraid of asking for help and to reach out for one-on-one support. She has compassion and cares. Each day, I feel more confident because she is always there for me. I couldn't have asked for a kinder supervisor. She understands mistakes can be made and there is a way to improve. With her amazing coaching, my Call Resolved has improved.”
“Alia Bawazer is the true definition of phenomenal. Alia has played such an enormous role in my growth with VSP. I honestly don’t think I would be as knowledgeable, skillful, or as resilient as I currently am within the company if it weren’t for her remarkable leadership capabilities. Alia is always available for any assistance needed to make sure her team has all the guidance necessary for a productive workday. Consistently going above and beyond is perceived as nothing more than effortless from this gem! Her flexibility, intelligence, and selfless acts are just some of the many attributes Alia possesses, which dramatically aid in the success of not just her team, but VSP as a whole. I adore the abundance of encouragement she constantly provides, and I love the relationship we have built over the years. I truly do believe VSP is extremely blessed and lucky to have her as a part of leadership. I’m able to maintain a high performance on my VoC results due to Alia’s continuous coaching.”
Feedback shared from Alia’s Manager:
"Alia is a World-Class Supervisor every day when she comes to work. Her positive energy is infectious! Her engagement with her team, her peers, and the organization is like no other supervisor I have encountered. She gives her all with the Eyes on Engagement Committee and is dedicated to the Black Heritage Business Resource Group committee as a Professional Development Leader. Alia displays a passion for developing her CSRs. She coaches everyone with positive reinforcement and uses different tactics that resonate with everyone. Her Csat score in Q1 started at 85.5% and ended the year at 95%. Her consistent improvement was due to coaching her CSRs to show the same energy with our members as she shows with them every day. In Q4, Alia and her team were given the assignment of being placed on a Skill Development Opportunity (SDO) in support of our Eyeconic business. Naturally, she was met with resistance by her team. There were so many unknowns, many new things to learn, and schedule changes, and again when hours of operations changed, more schedule changes. Alia didn’t let these things stop her or her team. She coached them through change management and showed them how to be resilient. Especially as this team consistently changed their hats from Vision Benefits (VB) to Eyeconic, through peak season Alia was right with them to change her hat as well. Alia reminded her team this was a learning experience, and she too was learning right beside them. She reinforced that it was okay to make mistakes; this is a part of growth and development.”
Here is what one of her CSRs had to say about Alia:
“I just want to share how much we appreciate Alia. She is very supportive and understanding of any situation I have brought to her. I not only know and understand my job duties as VB and EYECONIC trained but also the encouragement for Career Development and Growth with the company has never been initiated by a Supervisor and worked to make it possible. She deserves a well-done pat on the back from all of us on TAT5.”
As you can see, Alia deserves a pat on the back for a job well done. She has the ability to lead her team with compassion, creating a collaborating team to work towards the one mission of World Class Service.
Feedback shared from Alia:
"In October, I asked my team to not only follow me but to be open and positive about following me to become SDOs supporting our Eyeconic business. I knew we could do this and be successful. I met with each employee, reinforcing that we are a team and that they each are an important part of this team. I let them know that this is a great opportunity to learn new skills and help our business. I met with each person, and at the end of the conversation asked them, how do you feel? They said, “sure I want to help. I trust you, and I’ll do whatever the team and VSP need me to do.” This response was unanimous, across the board. Of course, it wasn’t easy. There were challenges that we would need to overcome, but they supported each other and me every step of the way. During the SDO, I went back to them and said, “I need you to change your schedule”. Next, “I need you to support both VB and Eyeconic calls”. And finally, “I need you to learn how to process emails”. They did all of this with grace, dedication, resilience, and enormous flexibility, with their focus always on the most important part, our member experience. I could never have asked my team to follow me without trust. It turned out to be one of the most successful peak seasons in Eyeconic. My team had a positive impact on these results and on our customer and member experience."
"What made me World Class in 2021 is my team. I could have never asked them to take that leap of faith with me without trust. I believe to be a successful leader you must gain your employee’s buy-in, and that in turn, creates a more positive experience for the employee and therefore, for the members they serve. I work to build trust by leading through engagement, stressing the importance of a team; that when one of us wins all of us win, displaying my commitment to their development in both their current and future skills and continuing to reinforce the message that what you do as an individual matters. As a leader, I reflect on ways I could have done things differently and how to adjust for the future."
"To me, trust is the seed you need for success to grow. Does my employee trust me and where I am leading them? All the coaching, support, and encouragement doesn’t matter if there is no trust. When there is trust on both sides, and you have your employee’s buy-in, people will give their all. That is how I lead to achieving World-Class experiences for our members, providers, and customers."
Alia Bawazer – VSP Vision Care
2020 Supervisor of the Year
Meeting the Challenge of Leadership During the Pandemic
He truly believes in our potential and encourages us to continually strive to be better than we were yesterday.
I would like to nominate my team manager Karandeep Singh for Supervisor of the Year. I joined Karandeep’s team in September 2020, and I soon discovered his amazing leadership skills. As a team leader, he is consistent in his role, leads with integrity, and is supportive of his employees both professionally and personally.
He understands that productivity and quality of work can only be achieved by a positive and engaged workforce. For example, once we transitioned to a work-from-home model, due to the pandemic, Karandeep personally checked in on my comfort level with this new way of operating. He did this by assessing and ensuring that all systems and applications were functioning as required and that I was comfortable using the new applications, which were installed to support the work-from-home model. Karandeep also addressed my questions with regard to the new business processes which were put in place to support our customers during the pandemic. He made sure that every team member was set up for success.
Karandeep understands and demonstrates the work/life balance, and treats all employees with dignity, respect, and integrity. For example, my family and I had a COVID-19 scare at my child’s school. He listened while I was in panic-mode, and offered his support and reassurance, which immediately calmed me down and helped me focus. His care and support did not stop there; he continued to check on the well-being of my family and myself right until test results were received.
Karandeep promotes teamwork while supporting our well-being. He empowers us to make decisions and take risks by supporting us, regardless of the outcome. He holds people accountable and helps us learn through our mistakes, by creating an environment built on mutual respect and appreciation for one another’s uniqueness. He truly believes in our potential and encourages us to continually strive to be better than we were yesterday. Our team results have consistently been stellar and continue on a positive trend. Karandeep never fails to celebrate individual and team successes during our team huddles or via email, as well as letting the team know how proud he is of our efforts. In doing so, he brings the team closer together while promoting a win-win culture.
In closing, I firmly believe that the team’s dedication to always being the best in anything that we set out to accomplish is a direct result of the balanced leadership style, positive attitude, responsiveness, and sense of humor of our supervisor, Karandeep.
Karandeep Singh – 407 ETR
2019 Supervisor of the Year
Make Them Feel Heard and Understood
The impact of empathy reaches far beyond the dos and don’ts of everyday business.
Empathy! By definition, empathy means the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. This has been the heartbeat of Michael Roberson’s leadership over the last two years as a supervisor of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City (Blue KC).
Michael graduated with his Master of Arts in Counseling in May of 2018. While going through school he discovered the impact of empathy reaches far beyond the dos and don’ts of everyday business. He took this learning and focused his energy on helping his customer service reps understand the power of empathy when dealing with customers. He consistently met with them individually and together as a team, and every time he would highlight the importance of empathy. In 2018, 11 out of 12 of his customer service representatives finished the year as World Class Certified representatives. In 2019, 10 out of 12 representatives on his team finished with World Class Certified status.
When asked what he has done differently over the past two years, Michael stated, “I believe that using empathy and connecting to members is 80% of a good customer experience. Doing and saying the right or wrong thing is the other 20%. If you can connect to the human being on the other end of the line, and make them feel heard and understood, you both win – even if you have to tell them information that they don’t agree with.”
Michael truly believes that empathy is at the heart of a good customer experience. After seeing his team’s results from his emphasizing empathy over the past two years, Michael took the initiative to create an empathy presentation entitled “Empathy in Service” and has been sharing it with various departments in the company to help impact members’ overall experience.
Michael’s team also had nothing but great things to say about him and how he leads their team. When asked about how he is as a supervisor and a leader, his team had the following things to say:
“When I was struggling last year, I asked Mike to listen to my calls and tell me what I needed to improve on. He always had positive feedback, but he also told me that I was lacking in confidence when I was speaking to members. I knew my job, but it sounded (to the members) like I lacked confidence. After meeting with him, I made the adjustments and started speaking with more confidence, and it helped my SQM scores. Mike is always so positive and not a micro-manager which makes the job easier.”
“Our success is a reflection of the leadership we were provided. Michael is always helpful and willing to work with anyone on his team when issues arise. He helped me personally with any issue I had that required a supervisor to handle or any issue that needed to be escalated further. He is such a supporter of his team, and he is always encouraging.”
“I’m so happy that Mike is being acknowledged for all of his leadership, hard work, and guidance of the Membership phone team (aka, Team Awesome). Mike has really dedicated himself to be available to each member of the team to ensure that we are successful not only with SQM but with all aspects of our job at Blue KC. I have been on Mike’s team since I started in October 2016 and have met my SQM goal every year. I know that my success has a lot to do with Mike’s leadership and encouragement. Whenever I have needed help or had an issue, he has been available to discuss and work with me to come up with a plan to help. It has been a pleasure to work with, and for, Michael Roberson.”
“Michael has helped me by giving me tips on how to respond to members with a better tone, and by showing great empathy when they are most vulnerable. He has also helped us with weekly SQM tips to increase our scores.”
“Teams are only as great of a success as the leader that has guided them, and Michael Roberson has been a GOOD leader. I have had the pleasure of being on Mike’s team now for almost five years and I must say that Michael has been extraordinary. Michael has always shown himself to be friendly and knowledgeable and always willing to help. I remember talking to Michael shortly after he hired me, and he told me to set my path and he would help me get there. I did just that. I have excelled tremendously over the past five years with Michael’s guidance and assistance. It is because of the great leadership that I have received that I am now pushing forward to becoming a supervisor myself.”
“From a team perspective, Michael has always gone above and beyond for our team. The encouragement received during the good and bad times has honestly groomed each of us into being better reps. Our team is now closer and stronger than we’ve ever been and that is due to him spending countless hours grooming, coaching, and guiding us. Team Awesome would not be who we are without him.”
As you can see, Michael Roberson has done an amazing job. His numbers over the last two years speak for themselves, but even more, his team verifies that his leadership reaches beyond the numbers. He is a great supervisor and leader, and I believe that he deserves to be recognized by SQM as Supervisor of the Year.
Michael Roberson – Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City
2018 Supervisor of the Year
Cornerstones of Success
Brenda’s impact on company culture is indisputable.
Brenda Parker’s commitment to customer service and servant-style leadership is both outstanding and inspiring. Her commitment has enabled the fostering of an unparalleled culture of pride and passion for customer service. Key to this culture is Brenda’s development of MiniPODs and the Growth and Development program. Both endeavors have resulted in clear improvements in CSR empowerment and morale while bolstering FCR and call resolution. In fact, based on their great success in Brenda’s location, both initiatives were adopted organization-wide and have become cornerstones of the contact center’s approach to customer service.
Brenda’s first initiative, the MiniPOD concept, began as an idea back in 2017. The MiniPOD partners with CSRs to develop and present material in small interactive peer groups. Brenda first presented the idea to her peers and then offered to pilot the concept in her location. During the pilot, Brenda led a team that developed, tested, re-vamped, and re-tested the concept. The pilot results were impressive and contributed to the measurable success of her contact center. With the completion of the pilot, Brenda introduced the program to all five contact centers with the help of the Training Advisory Group. The program’s initial success was similarly replicated in the other centers with clear gains in morale, engagement, CSR empowerment, FCR, and call resolution. Brenda continues to manage the state-wide program and has recently added a participant feedback mechanism that uses a five-star rating system similar to Google and Yelp. This allows her to receive feedback and continually improve the program. Due to its positive impact, Brenda’s MiniPOD initiative has now been recognized as an SQM Best Practice Award Finalist.
Brenda’s other initiative was the Growth and Development coaching program, which is also a Finalist for an SQM Best Practice Award. The initiative was born from an identified need in her location to increase CSR participation and engagement around quality and development. Addressing this need, Brenda became a key contributor to the creation of the Growth and Development program. The program utilizes both the Quality Coach and Team Leader to lead CSRs through interactive coaching sessions. The sessions are designed to promote CSR self-discovery, empower CSRs in their own development, and encourage CSRs to reach their fullest potential. Brenda played a substantial role in piloting and fine-tuning the program. After the pilot demonstrated great success in call resolution, Brenda helped bring it to all five contact centers, where the initial success continued. The program gained vast support and value as evidenced by survey data and resulted in positive impacts on morale, engagement, empowerment, FCR, union relations, and Customer Experience Indicators.
Brenda’s impact on company culture is indisputable. She has certainly played a role in designing the contact center’s approach to customer service through the development of both MiniPODs and the Growth and Development program. The significance of these initiatives continues to ripple throughout the company and beyond as we eagerly await Brenda’s future contributions to the company's success.
Brenda Parker – Consumers Energy
2017 Supervisor of the Year
Think Outside the Box, You May be Surprised by the Results!
His excitement is contagious.
My name is Lahna Bronston and I have been on Derrick’s team for almost 2 ½ years. When I started receiving my SQM surveys, I couldn’t figure out why my CSR Csat results were so low, why my callers were indicating their call was not resolved, and why I was needing to go to my supervisor’s office for a meeting regarding Action Alerts? After all, I love customer service and I’m nice as pie to my callers.
My callers would say nice things about me, but I wasn’t hitting it out of the ballpark to where they would say the service I provided them was consistently at a “Very Satisfied” level. As my surveys were coming in and I was receiving coaching, I wasn’t seeing the results I had expected. Derrick eventually placed me on a PIP which is short for Performance Improvement Plan. All I could think of was, I’m in trouble. Derrick took the time to talk me through my fears, he partnered with me to take this journey.
As I indicated, I wasn’t sure about this PIP thing, but we started out by meeting each Friday. We would listen to a call and then he would ask me to coach back the call. I had never been coached in this format, so it was uncomfortable and to be frank, it really annoyed me, but thinking outside the box, what could it hurt? It was a long journey but eventually, I was able to identify ways to improve my customer’s experience by taking the time to ask the appropriate probing questions, so I could fully understand what they required. My answers used to be short and the customer would need to call back to gain clarification. Now, depending on the caller and their needs, my answers are more detailed. As well, I check for understanding prior to disconnecting the call. Derrick and I would talk about the effort the customer had to put into resolving their issue. Derrick would stress “Low Effort”, “Make the Call”, and “Don’t Leave the Customer with a To-Do List”. In addition, we have done side-by-side coaching while I was taking live calls so our quality audit coaching sessions could align with the Voice of the Customer.
No matter the situation, Derrick always has a positive attitude. He loves coaching and even gets excited while coaching, which in turn makes me excited. His excitement is contagious! For example, if I am on a difficult call Derrick will write a quick note, bring it over, and lay it on my desk. The note will say something encouraging, such as, “You’ve got this!” He encourages me and our team to think outside of the box, as well as to never be afraid to ask questions or ask why a procedure is handled a certain way. Gaining understanding first and feeling empowered to challenge the status quo is what he is all about.
By being coached in this manner, I started seeing great results. This approach also helped build my confidence and gave me the attitude that “I can figure this out!” In the end, the results were fantastic. I ended 2016 with 83 attributable surveys. My CSR Csat score was 89%, my Call Resolution of 92%, and 4% Action Alert surveys. In 2017, I improved on those scores and ended with 62 attributable surveys that had a CSR Csat score of 97%, Call Resolution of 97%, and only 2% Action Alert surveys.
Derrick Huwer – VSP Vision Care
Interested in learning how agents and supervisors from previous years became industry-leading performers?
In addition to the award-winning nomination stories from the previous five years that you can read above, we have compiled all of our previous finalists' nomination stories from over the past decade into one single library. We encourage reading these stories to get further ideas for your nomination story, as well as receive insights into how other agents and supervisors have improved their company's customer experience strategy.