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Improve Customer and Employee Experience - One Individual at a Time
“The positive atmosphere is extremely beneficial..”
I began working at the 407 ETR as a temporary employee in the spring of 2004. For 6 years, I was a VEP Operator. When I found out that my department would be crossed-trained in Customer Service, I was very eager to broaden my skill set and improve my position in the company. I was trained for Customer Service in early 2010. My first year in the call centre was like anyone else’s – a work in progress. It is the type of job where you constantly need to be learning and educating yourself. This not only benefits yourself but improves the service you provide to customers.
I believe the biggest reason why I improved my World Class Calls is because of the Customer Service Centre. I began working there in September 2010. It has been the best experience of my working career. Being on the front lines and having a much more hands-on role assisting customers face-to-face, is the reason I have improved. Having great teammates and great leadership is also a contributing factor. We work together as a team and are always encouraging each other to do better. The positive atmosphere is extremely beneficial and I credit this, as well, for my improvement.
The hands-on role gives a CSR a different approach when it comes to customer service. We not only answer questions for customers, but we deal with several different areas that differ from CSRs in the call centre. Being exposed to these different areas has allowed me to improve as a Customer Service Representative which has also benefited our customers.
“She is no longer just processing a transaction..”
This nominee greatly improved her World Class calls this year over 2010. This is an impressive accomplishment worthy of recognition. She is a personable adjuster who processes her calls with professionalism and efficiency. In the past, she was process driven, more focused on taking the information and processing the claim than on how the customer felt or that the customer had what they needed. Technically she was strong, but customers did not always feel that personal connection we strive for.
Over the past year, she has made it a priority for the customer to have a positive experience with ICBC. She has a natural tendency to speak very quickly; she has slowed down and tries to connect with the customer on a personal level. When speaking with the customers, she talks to them as she would a friend; has real conversations with them, uses their name throughout the call, and although the customer is not usually calling under happy circumstances, you can often hear her laughing with them putting them at ease.
At the beginning of each call, she tells the customer what she is going to do so that the customer knows what to expect. She expresses empathy for their situation and treats everyone with respect. She is no longer just processing a transaction. At the end of each call, she ensures that the customer has the answers to all their questions, knows what the next steps are and ensures that there is nothing that she has not addressed for them.
She is an ambassador for ICBC, someone who you would want your friends and family to have on the other end of the phone if they needed to report a claim. She always has a smile in her voice and her customers can’t help but feel her smile and know that everything is going to be okay. This nominee should be recognized for this amazing accomplishment because she is living our vision for success every time she speaks with a customer by understanding them and exceeding their expectations.
“She wanted to demonstrate a better attitude towards the customer..”
This individual had improved a lot from 2010 to 2011. Her results were improved by her dedication and self-motivation of doing her best. I still remember her coaching sessions during which she would often ask herself why the customer did not value her effort and were not 100% satisfied in her calls when she thought that she was resolving their concerns and helping them with their requirements. Then she started thinking: if she were the customer, what things would she like to hear or perceive? Then think about the service offered. She started a self-awareness of being better in every call. She wanted to demonstrate a better attitude towards the customer and show more empathy. She is always following the bank’s service procedures, making a difference among her peers, being open-minded and receptive to her supervisor’s feedback and quality assurance recommendations. She had a genuine concern for listening and understanding our customers’ problems and took the decision to make every interaction a memorable experience. Using kindness, respect and empathy, taking responsibility and follow up all her cases. In conclusion, as her supervisor I can say, in every call she demonstrated her willingness to offer world class service and first call resolution commitment.
“No one has ever explained my plan to me like this before..”
In 2010 I was not World Class Certified. This year, I made a commitment to improving my call resolution and CCR satisfaction results and to do this, I had to make some changes. The main thing I worked on was my attitude. With each call, I put myself in my customer’s shoes. I actively listened to the callers’ needs and I explained information in a way that they understand. I reminded myself that if there is an opportunity to resolve an issue and satisfy the caller, not only is it better for Sun Life, it is also better for me. I tried to ensure that my callers’ concerns were resolved and provided additional information if it helped them.
My Team Leader really helped motivate me to make this change. She brought to my attention calls that were not World Class as coaching opportunities. We listened to the calls together, and although I was resistant to the feedback at first, I prided myself on seeing situations from the other person’s perspective. This helped me to see where I could find improvement in my calls. Since this time there have been more calls than I can count where the caller would not have been satisfied had I not applied my newly improved skills. I believe I am resolving more issues on the initial call. The following story demonstrates my improved commitment to customer satisfaction and resolution.
A gentleman phoned frustrated because he had been submitting claims for both his wife and himself that were getting declined and he did not understand why. He was extremely irritated with how difficult it was to get the claims processed and explained that he had called before for a similar issue. I reassured the member that I would resolve his questions and started looking into his claims. He was newly retired and his retiree plan had some clauses that could be confusing. I explained why his claims were declined and took the additional step of asking the member if I could take a moment to review his plan with him. As we went through his plan details, I saw that he had a health spending account that he was not utilizing and that he had coverage under his wife’s plan as well. I took the time to explain how his entire plan worked and also how to co-ordinate expenses to take advantage of all the coverage available to him. It took a bit more time than just answering his initial question. However, at the end of the call the member understood how to maximize the options under both plans.
I have dealt with calls such as this before. What made this call special to me was that at the end of the call the member said, “No one has ever explained my plan to me like this before.” That comment made me feel a sense of fulfilment. I could see that I not only helped resolve his questions for that day, but that my efforts were appreciated and would make his plans with Sun Life easier to manage. We only have a short time on most of our calls and it feels great when I know I have made a difference.
“I realized I listen more effectively when I was not talking..”
In 2010, I was not a World Class Certified Representative. Although disappointed, I accepted it and made a promise to myself that the following year I would be certified. To accomplish this, there would be changes that I would need to make. I began by listening to some of the calls I had taken, both world class and non-world class, and then made a list of my call flow and identified what had worked and what had not. This allowed me to come to several conclusions.
The first and most important was to open the call with a smile and keep smiling during the call. I did not believe it myself until I listened to my calls, but a smile truly can be heard and a ‘smiling voice’ is more welcoming and relaxing. This will make the caller more relaxed and assists in building more trust.
I realized that I listen more effectively when I was not talking and therefore I made it a point to refrain from interrupting my caller. I would let the caller finish what they were saying to not break their train of thought. To help me, I always have a pen and paper in hand. I got into the habit of taking short notes of what the caller was asking, any probing questions I would have or the points I would need to comment on. I would not be thinking of the answers to the member’s questions, but instead take in what they had to say. When I was searching for an answer, I was not actively listening. When my caller had finished speaking, I would refer back to my notes and take action. I would summarize the key facts I had jotted down to ensure I understood correctly, at the same time letting the caller know that I had understood them and their needs. In cases where I needed clarification, I would ask questions and never assume.
When speaking with the member, I made a conscious effort to speak slowly as I tend to speak fast. This allowed the caller time to absorb what I was saying. I spoke even slower when I was saying numbers, or anything the caller might need to write down. I used words that the caller used when they spoke to me – in effect – mirroring them. As long as the jargon they were using was accurate I would use it as well, as it is obvious they were using terms they were comfortable with.
I started showing empathy with my callers by using key phrases such as “I understand what you mean.” I found this to be a great way to build rapport with the caller and we all know that this is an integral part of the communication process. Lack of or absence of rapport can fundamentally affect the outcome of any conversation.
Lastly, I went the extra mile by giving added value to my calls by educating the caller about their plan and what it had to offer. I tried to implement first call resolution on every call, and if I could not, I promised the caller a time frame for my call back. Furthermore, when I did get the odd call where the caller had been bounced around, I would take ownership of the call showing empathy with the caller’s situation and assuring them that their issue is being looked after.
By applying these changes to my call flow I noticed an improvement in the quality of my calls. With that came the increased results of my World Class Calls allowing me to achieve my goal and become a World Class Certified CSR. A little self-reflection is all it took to make this happen and to allow me to solidify the relationships I have with the customers I speak with.
“My customers seemed happier and, in turn, so did I..”
Unfortunately, in 2010, I was not a World Class certified representative. This was not something I was very proud of. I was dealing with struggles in my personal life and not performing to my full potential. I thought I was separating my personal life from my work life however, came to realize that it was not the case. It was getting more difficult each day to come in with a smile. It was like a circle; as things became difficult outside of work, things would get worse at work and vice versa. Something needed to happen to break this cycle.
I talked with my supervisor and she made some suggestions. She indicated the importance of trying to put personal issues on the back burner when at work, and put work stresses there, when at home. This made sense; sitting at my desk and worrying would not help my personal life and certainly not improve my work life. She also suggested that we listen to some of my calls taken and make some notes as to how I could improve. After listening to a few calls we realized that I was not as friendly as I thought I was being. I also noticed that it was obvious I was not giving my full attention to what the customer was asking for. I was doing the bare minimum and my customers could tell. I was not using a lot of strong words such as I will, I can or certainly, to make them feel confident in my abilities. This was quite an eye opener and I was happy to have something to work on.
The first thing I did was incorporate some strong positive words into my conversations. I wanted my customers to feel comfortable knowing I would take care of their issue and confident I knew how to. I also started to pay more attention to all the reasons for their call. After a few weeks I noticed that this was indeed making a difference. My customers seemed happier and, in turn, so did I. I also noticed that when a customer was upset, by listening to all their concerns and not taking it personally, they became calm and no longer angry. I was learning to keep the personal feelings out of my calls and remain professional.
I spoke to my peers to see if I could learn from them. One of my colleagues suggested I use my mirror while speaking with our customers to ensure there was a smile on my face which would come out in the tone of my voice. This is an old trick but one that I had forgotten. By using the mirror during a call I could visually see when my smile disappeared and therefore my focus. Immediately I would turn that smile back on and start focusing again.
I began to notice, that as I renewed my old habits, my confidence returned and my struggles became a thing of the past. As the year progressed I was excited to hear all the positive feedback our customers had to give. The feedback was not just from customers but from my supervisor as well. My colleagues commented on a noted difference in my demeanor. Work was once again a good place to be, and as my SQM World Class Call rating improved, I saw a domino effect into my other metrics. My call resolution and other metrics such as AHT steadily improved month over month.
I am now involved in pilot groups and am there to help the team out whenever possible. Soon this feeling of achievement and success started to trickle into my personal life. The circle continued as I was feeling better at work, I was feeling better at home and stress levels started to lower. Through supervisor coaching, peer support and the realization that I needed to buckle down, I was able to change my tone of voice, improve my listening skills and my overall outlook. By increasing my world class calls, my attitude has been more positive and I once again look forward to coming into the office. This year I am very proud to share that I am a World Class Certified call centre representative. The SQM Smile is once again on my face and in my voice.
“I needed to find what was missing within me..”
I was proud of my World Class Call result last year, but I knew I had it in me to achieve a greater personal goal of 100% – for the customers I serve and me. I am now certified for my third consecutive year. In my first 2 years of certification, when I had a survey that was not World Class, I blamed the member and not take into account the key part that I played in impacting the members’ satisfaction. I felt that since my past certifications demonstrated that members liked me, than it must have been an error with the system. My lack of understanding of the members’ true needs did not help me meet their total satisfaction. I’m always looking for ways to improve and better myself on a personal level and decided to set a goal for my SQM surveys to see how high I could go. I would achieve this by treating each member like family and ensuring that they could feel that.
I had many discussions with my supervisor about why the calls did not go the way I thought they did, took all the feedback, and formulated a plan for the year to come. I pride myself on taking ownership of any given situation, but felt there was still something missing that was not letting me connect with every member. I decided to listen to the first month of calls, which were all World Class, to find the key ingredient that I needed to focus on in order to achieve the high goal I set for myself. After listening to my calls, I found what I was missing. I discovered what the members were looking for and what I was already providing, but not on a consistent basis. That one thing was ‘Caring’; caring for the member as if he or she was part of the family to reassure them that I will take care of all their needs.
Although I did not achieve 100% World Class this year, I am very satisfied with my increased result. I used all the resources at my disposal to ensure that the members’ needs were resolved. By getting rid of the attitude of ‘it’s everyone else’s fault but my own’, I was able to key into the members’ satisfaction.
It seems so simple, but putting yourself in the members’ shoes and thinking that they are the only call you’ll have that day frees you from any stress and gives you wings to bring their resolution to new heights. I needed to find what was missing within me – the caring aspect of the call – and then focus on ensuring that was conveyed to the members in order to build a strong relationship and gain their trust. This new approach and self-awareness helped me improve my results, but more importantly let me provide excellent customer service to our customers by going above and beyond and solidifying their relationship with Sun Life.
“I changed my mind set, my attitude, the tone of my voice and my approach..”
Every business needs it, we all personally need it – change. It happens whether we want it to or not, and we all must incorporate it if we want to go further. I now have a new appreciation for change and the power we have to do so.
Unfortunately, last year I was not a World Class Certified representative. This for me was not personally acceptable. As I reflected on my 2010 World Class rating, I knew that 2011 had to be different – it was to be the year of change. Most importantly, it would need to be the year of self-change if I was to become SQM certified! The desire to change must come from within and now I was ready. As the new SQM year started, my goal was to be World Class Certified and I would not settle for less.
I created my personal goals and wrote them down. Every day I would look at my goals as a reminder to inspire me. You will find on my desk to this very day the following note – Great Aspirations Leaves Award – my goals and aspirations were set. My supervisor said she would do anything necessary to help me achieve them. I was now on my way to become the ‘one’ to provide the best customer service! Change was happening!
Through one-on-one coaching sessions, my supervisor and I identified areas I could work on and developed plans. I was determined to achieve these goals and soaked in as much feedback and information I could get my hands on. We noticed trends in my tone of voice, habits and mannerisms. We began to identify areas where improvement was needed; things that would impact and change a customer’s response from somewhat satisfied to very satisfied. What I thought as helping was sometimes not helpful at all because it seemed like I was rushing to beat the clock instead of providing quality service. I persevered and knew that all I had to do was ask, if I needed to know more or needed more support. I found myself liking the feeling that I was not abandoned but actually guided, as promised. When I had that feeling, everything fell together.
The tone of my voice is now softer so that the customer can hear that I care, that I understand, and am sincere in what I say. I can now recognize during a call when a customer’s frustration may actually be causing me frustration. With that recognition I am able to remain calm and patient in order to stay focused and ensure first call resolution. With the mind set of ‘one call at a time’, the rushing stopped, my customers are very satisfied and at the same time I have seen a significant reduction in my average handle time (AHT)!!! What an eye opener that the two fall together. I now believe that quality customer service can happen while ensuring AHT targets were met. I changed my mind set, my attitude, the tone of my voice and my approach.
These changes have affected me in so many ways (in achieving my one goal, I am able to achieve many). I know I am providing excellent help to my customers while, at the same time, being a strong contributor to my team. My SQM World Class Rating improved by 10%! My decision to change was what I needed to start my improvement. My AHT has also reduced. My Internal Quality rating went from a “meets most” to an “exceeds”. There are so many benefits that I have and will continue to experience due to this decision. Although I am proud of all my achievements I am most ecstatic that this year, my year of change I am a World Class Certified CCR.
“She decided to really focus on the voice of the customer..”
This nominee increased her percentage of world class calls by 13%. She has a strong desire to deliver a world class experience on each and every call. She feels that as a tenured CSR who has been world class certified for the previous four years, her results, as good as they were, should be even better. She decided to really focus on the voice of the customer.
By partnering with her supervisor and listening to calls, she realized that she was inadvertently setting up false expectation for her callers in how quickly they could expect to receive faxed information from her. Once an outbound fax is submitted, it goes to a queue and can take up to 20 minutes to be sent, or even longer if the receiving number is busy and the outbound fax has to line up in the queue again. She realized that something as simple as changing her phrasing from ‘it’s on its way’ to ‘you can expect to receive the information within 24 hours’ would set a realistic and accurate expectation for her callers, thereby increasing their level of satisfaction and confidence the call was resolved.
She realized that the more comfortable and confident she was with the information she was sharing with her callers, the better her voice of the customer results. She made a conscious effort to stay abreast of new and changing procedures in the call center by proactively reading her online resources. She also appreciates and supports the way her team shares tips and advice with one another. She has been very motivated by the positive feedback she saw as a result of her efforts to be more confident in herself and the changes she made to her call handling. Additionally, she attributes the monthly feedback sessions with her supervisor and the supportive and open team environment as factors in her success. She and her peers enjoy recognizing and celebrating each other’s successes in team meetings and she strongly believes that partnership and give-and-take of information on the team enhances her ability to provide outstanding service to her callers.
As her supervisor, it’s my opinion that this individual’s focus paid off to the benefit of both her improvement and VSP’s gain.
“They are calling for help..”
I am proud to nominate this individual for the World Class Call Improvement Award. She achieved a 17% increase from her last certification period. Her focus this year was on improving her overall scores.
She takes ownership and accountability for every interaction with each call. She does not judge or assume why the caller is calling. Instead she begins every interaction knowing that, ‘they are calling you for help’.
This is what she said when asked what keeps her engaged and successful:
They are calling for help. I am here to help them and give them what they need. I make notes of what the customer is asking. Regardless of how the call flows, by writing what the customer is asking for ensures that I meet their needs and First Call Resolution. I take ownership of each call, whether that is reviewing benefits with members or assisting doctors with finding guidelines in their manual. I take pride in my job. I feel good at the end of the day knowing that I did a good job. Helping people and the company is important to me.
In the comment section on her SQM Report Card, common themes used by her callers to describe their experience with this individual include: knowledgeable, informative, answered all my questions, efficient, professional, communicates well, listens, very helpful and nice. Our callers recognize the customer service she provides almost always exceeds their expectations. This is evident by the calls transferred to a supervisor complimenting this individual on her outstanding customer service.
Direct feedback from our callers includes:
She was wonderful! She was very helpful, pleasant, calming and her listening skills are outstanding. I am very happy with the level of service she provided and wish everyone was that helpful. She was focused and resolved all my issues. She was exceptional!
My whole family has been in and out of hospitals and doctor’s offices. In my entire existence dealing with insurances, I have never had a representative call a doctor’s office on my behalf and personally fix a problem I was having. Just the act of caring enough to go the extra mile made a big difference. She did something for me that I will never forget for as long as I live.