Delivering outstanding FCR performance for Blue Cross Blue Shield Michigan
All Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans are preparing for the changeover in 2012 from the current Member Touchpoint Measures to include the Voice of the Customer (VoC) with First Call Resolution (FCR) and BEM metrics to measure plan performance and customer satisfaction. Many plans have been piloting the new program for the past two or three years.
The independent company surveying call centers on behalf of the national association has stated that it’s unusual for an outsourced call center to perform as well as an in-house center on the new metrics. And yet, that’s exactly what Global Response, the outsourced call center for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, has done since it’s been responding to subscriber calls on claims, benefits, membership and more.
Energy, Enthusiasm and Confidence—A Winning Combination
For nearly 70 years, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBSM) has been dedicated to providing affordable, quality healthcare and doing all it can to create stronger, healthier Michigan communities. The company offers a broad variety of plans including PPOs, HMOs, and plans for Medicare recipients.
BCBSM was handling calls via its internal call center and one outsourced call center, yet was looking to increase its flexibility by engaging another call center vendor. Among its selection criteria were cost, technical sophistication, and a ability to deliver a superior customer service experience. It accepted nine responses to its RFP, narrowed the field to three, interviewed and scored the finalists, and selected Global Response.
“They rose to the surface in many areas,” says Vince P, Director of Service Operations Support for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBSM), “but what really impressed us and won them the business was their energy, enthusiasm, and confidence that they could do an outstanding job for us.”
Following the Plan for a Flawless Implementation
Once selected, Global Response began executing its detailed implementation plan for a new client—a plan that has been developed and refined over many years and with dozens of clients. “It really demonstrated their experience and expertise,” says Vince. “We had to transition work to Global Response, train their agents, set up systems, and put many processes in place. Over the several months required to establish this complex relationship, we had no problems whatsoever.”
To prepare to service the account, BCBSM and Global Response conducted six weeks of training for carefully selected agents. The sessions were taught by BCBSM trainers, and Global Response trainers attended so they could conduct future sessions. At the sessions, Global Response agents learned the BCBSM applications, claims procedures, plan benefits, and, says Vince, “the insurance business from A to Z.” In mid-2009, with access to BCBSM systems identical to that of internal agents, Global Response agents began handling a percentage of calls to the insurer regarding claims, benefits, membership and other issues.
“It takes months to train someone to handle these complex calls and a few more months of doing the work for everything to click,” says Vince. “If your call center has substantial turnover and you’re always in training mode, it can really hurt performance. With Global Response, nearly a year into the relationship, we’ve had zero turnover—every single agent from that initial training class is still on the account.”
Global Response currently handles 12,000 calls per month, with each agent averaging about 40 calls per day. “These are not short, simple interactions,” says Lynn Lundquist, Vice President of Michigan Operations for Global Response. “To do a good job, agents must know the insurer’s procedures and systems and be able to carefully handle sensitive human issues related to health and finance. The special quality our agents bring is a measure of sincere compassion, sensitivity and maturity, and that sincerity comes through over the phone.”
Scoring High on Independent Quality Assessments
To assess plans on their FCR performance, the Blue Cross national association has contracted with an outside company to survey members twice a year on each plan’s behalf. The essential question in the survey is: Was your issue resolved on one contact, yes or no?
“The FCR metric uses the voice of the customer as being the measure of how well we’re doing, not our own internal transactional metrics,” says Vince. “We’ve realized that resolving calls on the first opportunity, as well as things like CSR helpfulness and caring, are the metrics that have been statistically proven to drive customer satisfaction.”
The FCR score is a percent figure—the percent of members who say their inquiry was resolved with one call. The survey firm reports that Global Response was able to improve the FCR score six percentage points in a single year, to 67 percent—a higher figure than the in-house call center handling the same call types. “The survey firm says that improving six percentage points in a single year is a huge accomplishment,” says Vince. “In fact, we were one of only four businesses out of 400 that were recognized for such dramatic FCR improvement.”
In another key measurement, customer satisfaction with the agent handling the call was 81 percent for Global Response, as compared to 74 percent with in-house agents.
What accounts for Global Response’s performance? According to Vince, “It’s the type of people Global Response hires, the work ethic in Michigan, the training, and the leadership. They all play a part in delivering outstanding results.”
Vince adds that the consistently excellent customer service Global Response delivers helps BCBSM achieve a range of key business objectives. “Their price is attractive compared to our internal cost-percall, which helps us reach aggressive cost-containment targets,” he says. “That cost control helps us be more competitive in a very tight Michigan market. Also, the excellent customer service Global Response delivers increases customer satisfaction, thereby boosting our retention of existing members, and helping us attract new business.”
Vince says that Global Response has moved beyond the status of a vendor to become a strategic partner. “We have a mutual commitment to each other’s success, and that’s a foundation for a strong, long-term relationship,” he says.