Voice of Experience: Cut the Chit-Chat
BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee
Dir., Technical Services
Manager's Profile: Oversees telecommunications and information-technology systems technical support for the health insurance provider, which serves 4.6 million people and paid $14 billion in benefits in 2003.
Get Off the Phone: BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee (BCBST) fields roughly 27,000 calls per day. In 2001, its 500 agents needed an average of 6 minutes to handle each call, and Hale and his group saw opportunities to boost efficiency. Their aim: cut costs while improving customer service. "Those two goals don't necessarily go hand in hand," Hale observes.
Press '1' to Be Annoyed: BCBST's previous setup required members to enter their policy number to be routed to the right department (for example, one agent group deals with state of Tennessee employees). But because its Nortel Networks phone system wasn't linked to its customer-service applications, agents immediately asked callers for their member ID after being transferred. "That was very frustrating to our customers," Hale says.
His Project: In late 2001, Hale headed a team that worked with IBM Global Services to implement a more intelligent call-routing system, which would provide agents "screen pops" with information about callers to resolve calls more quickly. The new system, built around Genesys' Inbound Voice software, went live in February 2003. Now when callers punch in their ID numbers, the Genesys application instantly retrieves their account information from BCBST's mainframe-based claims-processing system.
Money Talks: Hale says the project paid back in 15 months, and he estimates it will save $4.9 million over five years. How so? The biggest area of improvement, he claims, was that the system reduced the average time needed per call by 10% (cutting 36 seconds from each) and shaved 20 seconds off call-transfer times. That let the company reduce its call-center head count by 31 full-time employees. Says Hale: "If you're on the phone for less time with a customer, you can handle more callsand the customers are happier."