2019 Top Supervisor CX Success Stories
I Have to Know What Drives Them
“The number I focus on with my team is ONE.”
Seventeen years. This is the number of years I have been with Blue Cross Blue Shield Kansas. Ten years is the number of years I have supervised my current team and the same number of years I have been a World Class Supervisor. Eleven is the number of amazing Customer Experience Representatives I have on my team. Eight hundred fifty-three is the number of SQM surveys completed in 2019 for my team.
I am very proud of my team, but the number I focus on with my team is ONE. One Customer Experience Representative (CXR) at a time, one member at a time, one inquiry at a time, and one World Class customer experience at a time.
As a supervisor, it's important for me to know my CXRs on an individual level. I have to know what drives them, what they're passionate about, what method of learning works best for them, and most importantly, how to talk and connect with them. The only way I know how to do this is to spend time with them to get to know them. I sit with my CXRs while they take calls. We meet to review performance and set goals. We listen to and review every SQM survey they receive. Paying attention to the details during these interactions helps me to coach each CXR with a personalized and individual focus. I coach each person as if they are the only representative I have; my one.
I want to tell you about one of my CXR’s, Katie. When Katie was new to my team, she was happy. Not just a little happy, like giddy happy. She was excited to be working for Blue Cross Blue Shield Kansas, she was ecstatic to be on a World Class team, and she was anxiously awaiting the opportunity to talk to our members. She began taking member calls and she was all smiles. From her perspective, she was awesome! Her personality was bubbly, she answered calls quickly, her accuracy was good, and she referred to her overall performance as 'rockin it’. I loved her enthusiasm, but I knew she was in for a rude awakening. She was so busy being awesome, but unfortunately, I could see she was not connecting with our members.
Her focus was on taking as many calls as she could and just being awesome. Soon, she realized with the SQM feedback, she was not 'rockin it'. Her world class scores were low, and members were not impressed with her service. She was shocked and her awesome bubble had burst. I, on the other hand, was not shocked. I knew we had some work to do. By being present in Katie's daily activities, I could see the service she was providing was all about her. While I was grateful to have someone who was dedicated and wanted to be the best, I had to let her experience the raw truth of getting some 'not satisfied' and 'not resolved' feedback from our members.
Once reality hit, it was time to get to work. Due to the time we had spent together taking calls and coaching, I had learned how to talk to Katie. She wanted feedback and coaching to be straight forward. So, I asked her the following questions, "Are you truly listening to member concerns, before jumping in so eagerly to help?" "Are you showing compassion in sensitive situations or are you just saying the words you think they want to hear?" "Are you following through with promised actions?" Katie was very receptive to the feedback. I could see in her eyes that she realized she wasn't providing service from the heart. Her mindset changed to making each inquiry an awesome experience for the member. An experience that they would remember, an experience that made the member feel like they were the only member we had; our one.
We all work together, we support each other, and our responsibility is to provide a World Class experience. One Customer Experience Representative at a time, one member at a time, and one World Class customer experience at a time.
Jody Broughton – Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas
It Was Time for a New Perspective
“I told her to take some time to think about it and that we would talk again in a few days.”
I began with Regence in 2010 and I loved that the job gave me opportunities to talk with people going through difficult times, to help them gain a level of understanding in the moment, and to not feel powerless in the future. Approximately, two years ago, I joined the Leadership Team in Medford as a supervisor. In my current role, I support and empower our current Customer Service Professionals (CSPs) as they help members facing tough, confusing situations. While the job can be crazy stressful, the rewards make every moment worth it.
One of those moments happened this past year. In 2019, I worked with a CSP on my team who had experienced an extreme dip in member experience for 2018. Throughout 2018, as she and I would meet to talk about her calls I was full of “rah, rah, you can do this” speeches and “try this”. No matter how positive and encouraging the conversations were, she continued to struggle month after month with no sustained improvement. As the year went on, we were both frustrated, and every conversation focused on the importance of improvement and the potential outcomes if improvement didn’t happen, while still trying to be positive and encouraging. I knew that she had the personality and the skills to deliver great member experiences, it just wasn’t translating to her calls. I knew she was coming across as disengaged and not connecting, but nothing suggested was working for her. I knew it was time for a new perspective.
I took it to my peers to ask for input in finding a different approach to take. As a leadership team, we listened to one of her calls and the feedback was not surprising. They heard what I had been hearing, she just wasn’t engaging with her caller. They were blunt, saying she sounded like a robot and that everything about her tone conveyed she wasn’t invested in the call. Taking the feedback from the group, I scheduled a time for us to meet with another supervisor (who had supported her when she first started) to listen to the call and to talk about it. The hope was that she would be impacted by meeting with us both and hearing the feedback from someone else. She was able to identify the lack of engagement but couldn’t explain it. Finally, I just said to her “Honestly, on your calls, it sounds like you don’t like your job and that being on the phone is the last thing that you want to do. What is it that you want to do?” I affirmed my commitment to her and her success but told her “you must know that this is what you want to do”. I told her to take some time to think about it and that we would talk again in a few days.
When we met next, she said she thought about it, and that our observations were true. She had been feeling burned out being on the phones, but that she really hadn’t been willing to acknowledge that until after our conversation. She said that she wanted to be here and that she understood that members needed her full attention and time. We laid out some steps that she could take, including some of the earlier things we had tried. Knowing what the issue was made her much more open to the feedback, and much more willing to try to implement some different strategies for engaging with members.
The path to improvement was not smooth, but when I enlisted the help of my peers and after a couple of pivotal conversations with her, she turned around her member experience drastically. More importantly, she is engaged and invested with her members. She said “I realized they (members) had genuine issues and concerns and needed to know the person on the other end of the line was truly concerned about their issue. They didn’t want to listen to a robotic voice that provided monotone answers.” Now, she thinks of her interactions with members as if they are one of her own family members, and she listens to them and provides them with the strength to handle whatever they need. Today, members share satisfaction and gratitude with me, and they want me to know the value that we have in her. I’m grateful to support her and to see her successes.
Jolie Rhodes – Regence Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plans
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 him 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 for 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 being 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
The Importance of Leading by Example
“You cannot just say to someone, ‘show empathy’ and expect to get the response you want.”
There is one piece of advice I would like to share with aspiring young leaders; if you are able, start your leadership journey as a Supervisor. Leadership in its most simple form is put to the test when you are responsible for frontline employees. Much like a Squad Leader in the Army, frontline Supervisors are responsible for the team that does the forward-facing activity of an organization. There must be an appreciation for the hard work that goes into the day in and day out jobs of our Service Team Members, and a special person is needed to be able to motivate them to take on their daily responsibilities.
Pa’Quail is one of those people whose professional background and her upbringing as an Army Brat helped her to become the leader whom we want helping our Member Help Team (MHT) Agents. Growing up as a military dependent of an Army Service Member gave her a unique perspective on leadership and diversity. Leadership seems to be a common thread woven through the experiences of most people that have been connected to the military. But another thread is exposure to diversity in all the travels around the world. Pa’Quail was able to experience a different perspective of the world through the eyes of an American stationed in different foreign bases and learned from her family the importance of leading by example and appreciating people’s differences.
The hope for any organization is that its leaders bring qualities and processes that help improve the team and make their teams better in their roles. Pa’Quail has done this through various methods that she’s been able to develop through her own experiences in the customer service industry. With her background in Quality Coaching, she has embraced the concept of caching and continual learning. She has made these two concepts a pivotal component of her leadership strategy. In our interview, she emphasized the importance of coaching her team regularly as it served as the cornerstone of her team’s overall success and improvements.
At first, coaching seems so basic, but anyone who has ever been in a coaching role understands the complexity and nuances needed to be an effective coach. One coaching example that stood out during my talk with Pa’Quail was how she had to help one of her team members become more empathetic. In the world of service, it is such a basic and foundational concept, but it isn’t something you simply tell someone to be or do. You cannot just say to someone, “show empathy,” and expect to get the response you want. Instead, a coach must get to know a person, learn what motivates them to help break through, and help them change. This is exactly the approach she took with one of her MHT Agents who struggled with demonstrating empathy on calls. Through re-enforcement, and having her team practice shifting perspective, she was able to help her team member improve her empathy. It’s not magic, it’s consistency and dedication to want to see someone change for the better. In this case, she stayed with her team giving them opportunities to re-assess scenarios, put themselves into the shoes of our members, and shifted their perspective to gain an appreciation and new insights for what our members might be going through.
The second practice Pa’Quail does that I enjoyed hearing was so simple, and it just made sense. As part of knowing her team, she makes it a point to know each person’s learning style. She keeps a notecard in a file for each team member where she records tips and history on how each of her team prefers to learn. In an industry with constant change and a need to stay knowledgeable on every change in healthcare, knowing how a person processes information to learn is critical for a team’s success. It’s not that Pa’Quail produces new material to teach her team, but at a minimum, she can use the knowledge of her team’s learning styles/preferences, to help them succeed with receiving, absorbing, and learning new information.
After learning about Pa’Quail and seeing the things she does to improve her team, I felt she not only demonstrates the characteristics of a Supervisor of the Year, she also has a lot to share with other Supervisors. Overall, Pa’Quail clearly demonstrates the qualities we should all hope for from a leader and, given the opportunity to win this award, she could be a great example for other leaders to learn from.
Pa’Quail Walker– Independence Blue Cross
Be Willing to do What You Ask of Others
“It is a true testament to your leadership to have a staff that is consistently providing such great service.”
It takes a lot of dedication and consistency to achieve five consecutive years of World Class Supervisor Certification. I have spent hours with my team each year to ensure their success so they can certify as World Class CSRs. I have nine Customer Advocates and five of those Advocates have certified consecutively, while one has certified multiple times. Below are some of the tasks I take on to ensure they achieve their WCC status.
Over the last five years, coaching has evolved greatly. To start, I reviewed all the non-world class and non-FCR calls to be coached and would compile some best practices to share with the staff. Then we began listening to calls together so that the Advocate could hear the call and understand the voice of the customer. Once we rolled out Call Resolution Delivery Model training to our staff, we listened to calls using that model to be sure that we were handling calls correctly based on our call guide.
We have a Welcome Call program within our unit, where we reach out to our new members and welcome them to Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City (Blue KC). I modelled that Welcome Call script around the feedback from our members. I wanted to be sure that in our welcome call, we handled the most common reasons that members call into the Plan. This helps to resolve almost all questions and concerns so that the member doesn’t have to make a return call.
Along with these steps, I also provide consistent updates. I update the staff with our scores each time they are updated. This constant communication with my team has really helped with team morale. I make it a point to celebrate all achievements, big or small. I was a part of a workgroup and came up with the Recognition Wall where we showcase all compliments our Advocates receive from our members, co-workers, or internal customers. This recognition wall is rotated every quarter to capture all the compliments we receive.
We provide additional training on empathy. In those classes, the representatives use it as a reset session to find the why Advocates are here at Blue KC. I think a big part of maintaining consistent performance is being willing to do what you ask the team to do. I take Supervisor calls, and on two different occasions, I received compliments from members. It helps to set an example that even though a member may be upset, it is possible to turn that call around. Any time I take a Supervisor call, I circle back with the Advocate to let them know how I resolved the call and provide valuable feedback on how to handle the call, should they receive a similar call.
The biggest compliment I received was from a Retired Congresswoman. She leaves a compliment for all Advocates that she speaks with, and in one call stated, “it is a true testament to your Leadership to have a staff that is consistently providing such great service.”
Below are comments from my staff regarding the leadership and coaching I have provided for them:
- “You are direct about my errors but never callous. Your enthusiasm about our achievements in just about every email is the positive reinforcement that the customer service staff needs to carry on with a smile in our voices, even if we're feeling weary after a long day of difficult calls. Your offers to assist shows your passion for getting things right for all our sakes. Showing where we made errors but pointing the way toward how we can correct them and constantly improve is support in itself.”
- “Trish builds her team by being there consistently to let them know they are not doing this by themselves.”
- “You are always willing to help with our questions. If there is an issue that needs to be resolved, you help out with research to get the best possible solution. You give us help on how to improve our calls and suggestions on how to better help our members. You are always willing to go the extra step to help your employees. You are kind and compassionate and always willing to listen.”
- “You have been an inspiration for me to be the best I can be. Even when I have had bad surveys, your coaching has allowed me to bring my scores back up. I joined your team almost a year ago and couldn’t be happier with my day-to-day challenges of learning something new. Your coaching style goes a long way with me since you keep it in a friendly and caring manner. I look forward to the years to come of being on your team.”
- “I feel you are always so encouraging and are always so supportive. We have gone over several calls and you helped with coaching, and ways I could have handled it differently. I like the way you email me when folks leave a nice compliment. You have a management style that we all appreciate.”
Patricia Mahurina – Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City
She Personifies the Word “Inspiration”
“There is nothing more important than how our members view Florida Blue.”
Shonda began her journey as a service leader more than 15 years ago at Florida Blue. Some might think her passion and commitment to her employees and their professional development might have waned through the years but, Shonda is just getting started! Two years ago, Shonda attended her first SQM Conference in Canada. While she had always been committed to the development of her employees and passionate about their professional growth, something happened to Shonda at her first SQM Conference, something wonderful. Shonda went to Canada with the intent of listening to presentations and participating in a conference. What she brought back to Florida Blue was a concept of how to not only make her team better but how to improve our entire service department, a concept called the Training Application Unit (TAU).
Florida Blue had implemented this concept in the past, and we knew there was value in it. The TAU that Shonda had in mind would be even better. Instead of only a place where new employees would learn how to apply the training they had just completed, they would also learn about how to really understand our members, satisfy their needs, and resolve their issues, the first time. Under Shonda’s oversight, they would receive intensive coaching and feedback until they demonstrated the proper skills, behavior, and commitment to excellence necessary to be certified. This was quite the undertaking as Shonda would be responsible for multiple back-to-back classes and ultimately, the quality of the employees serving our members.
Since 2018, Shonda has worked with more than 80 employees. With each class, she identifies and coordinates subject matter experts who can support the needs of new employees. While maintaining learning curves and providing feedback on each of the trainees, a task that is extremely time-consuming, she also listens to calls from both positive and negative surveys to provide coaching and drive improvement in customer satisfaction and first contact resolution. When there are no training classes in session, she schedules additional training along with calibration sessions to make sure that the learning process continues. She shares this training with her peers to ensure the same topics are delivered to seasoned employees.
When you talk to Shonda, you know that there is nothing more important than how our members view Florida Blue. She wants nothing less than 100% resolution and customer satisfaction. She loves Florida Blue and has poured her heart and soul into making sure that her employees buy into it as well. As she is working with our newer employees, she also continues to develop the employees who are the subject matter experts in her unit. Because of her ability to see great things in our employees, we have seen these employees that were under her tutelage move on to other assignments.
Shonda is recognized within Florida Blue as an expert in the areas of leadership, training, and employee development. Following are some quotes from her employees and peers:
- “You never know the hard work a leader puts in, to keeping things running like a well-oiled machine until you observe how she makes the job of a leader look so flawless. It takes a lot to be able to withstand the many ups and downs and be the kind of leader that continues to motivate and keep the team together as a family. Shonda takes real passion into what she does, not just for our team, but for the overall success of the department. I do not believe I would be where I am today as a team lead and a senior facilitator without the guidance and motivation she gives to, not just myself, but our entire team. From the time I stepped into the role of subject matter expert for the Training Application Unit (TAU), I started to study and learn the ways of being an effective leader by following the model example that Shonda shows so effortlessly. I believe this is one of the many reasons she should be awarded Supervisor of the Year.”
- “Shonda is very deserving of being nominated for this honor. Shonda has a knack for staying on track and being very organized. With so many balls in the air, it always amazes me how she can remain focused and multitask between managing her team, monitoring training, keeping us on track with SQM award submissions, among many other tasks. Shonda is a firm but compassionate leader and really looks out for her people, working with them until all options are exhausted.”
- “Shonda is a natural-born fit for her current role. Shonda is great at communicating, delegating, and keeping everyone on our team on task. She is always so positive and has great ideas on how to handle potential issues. Even if she has a bad day, Shonda will put a smile on your face.”
The passion that Shonda’s coworkers described above is reflected in the recognition that Florida Blue Federal Employee Program has received. She is the one that ensures our department goes through our many deserving employees and helps with narrowing down the lists to the best-of-the-best for recognition for the Customer Service Advocate (CSA) of the Year. Florida Blue Federal Employee Program has been recognized three years in a row (this year will be four) for World Class Customer Satisfaction. None of this is by accident. While the leadership team is top-notch, Shonda is the inspiration that drives me and her peers to ensure we stay engaged so that our CSAs are receiving well-deserved recognition. This year, she researched the different award categories and encouraged us to submit several processes to be considered for CX Best Practices. Her hard work and dedication led our plan to be recognized as a finalist for our CSR Selection process.
Shonda Roberson embodies all that a leader should aspire to be. The work she has led for Florida Blue FEP over the last year has significantly improved our contact center performance, the effectiveness of our staff, and the quality of the product we deliver to our members. Shonda is truly worthy to be recognized as the SQM Supervisor of the Year for 2019.
Shonda Roberson – Florida Blue (Federal Employee Program)