Life in the Call Center

What are the challenges in your call center?

I jump at any chance to read an article about insurance call centers.  Mostly because call center work is the least glamorous, least respected, and most underappreciated work in any insurance company.   That prototype should change immediately.

An article about change

You can imagine my surprise finding an article about insurance call centers.  It’s a great, informative article.   You can see that article here.   Being excited, I referred this article to a couple of marketing departments I work with as a suggestion to be

Headset on a laptop computer keyboard

reprinted on inter-company newsletters.  The only response I got was ‘Thanks for sharing’.

I agree with the author that call centers are the major ‘touch point with the customer’.  He proposes the experiences of Farm Bureau claims call center employee as the best example of a good insurance call center.  This Farm Bureau employee states he has pulled off phones for insurance classes were encouraged to close as many claims as he could while answering calls, and says his availability, after call work, and time on the call were not the main factors his supervisors considered.

A choice to make

The problem I have is being focused on your career is one thing, being focused on the call and the insured is quite another.  When I look up the top 20 insurers for claims service, I don’t see Farm Bureau.  See the 2016 list here.  Every horror story that I hear, comes from insurers on the list.

Do we need to demean and terrorize the staff to stay on the list?  No.  Herein the problem lies.

In the Health and Life insurance call centers, the majority are not licensed; however, the Property Casualty call centers require their representatives to be licensed.  This arduous process can make or break a representative.  And it has to be done off work hours.

Call center training is primarily focused on learning the computer system.  As more and more companies transfer from the basic DOS systems to an internet ‘do what we want’ system, this training will become more detailed and longer.   Many have more than one system to learn.

puppy

After that, sixty-five percent of the calls are related to billing, paying a bill, or disputing a charge, twenty percent have to do with price increases and how can I reduce my premium, five percent are suspensions or state compliance issues, and the remainder are actual insurance calls related to changes and coverage questions.

How it should be

The regular auto and home insured do not know the call center representative is a licensed professional.  For them, the call is similar to contacting the Cable Company, the Utility company, or Shoe Company.   Of course, it’s not.  Those companies aren’t going to hand out a money card based on coverage selections at time of loss. Here are my suggestions:

  • Instead of a ‘body in a chair’ attitude, call center reps should be seen as talent not to be wasted.
  • If your billing software cannot easily be displayed on your website for insureds to review, then billing questions and disputes should be handled by a separate billing call center. It’s one thing to raise rates, it’s another to make it confusing.
  • Field agents and mortgage companies should not be contacting the call center for any reason.
  • No one insured should wait more than 5 minutes to talk with a representative.
  • There should be no limit to ‘time on call’.
  • For auto insurance companies – auto dealerships who call and cause problems should be dealt with accordingly.
  • Abusive and vulgar clients who need a supervisor every time they call should be non-renewed.
  • For arduous, irresponsible, and unprepared insureds who call – the representative should have the discretion to charge a flat fee.

I assume this is shocking for any company executive to read.  I have seen first-hand the sloppy, unaccountable, and negligent way insurance company HR departments hire for the call center.

It is a contract after all

Yet, it’s a mystery to some why the hiring manager doesn’t accept candidates from the call center.  My suggestions mean choosing the right people and being accountable to the industry – not just the bottom line.

Lastly, some companies prefer to call policies contracts which technically it is – with the insured.  It is strange how different an insured reacts to the word ‘contract’ as opposed to ‘policy’.  I guess that goes back to perspective and how we view the world.  One thing is for certain if we don’t respect ourselves, no one else will.

What are your thoughts?  Leave a comment or share an experience.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s