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Insurance Call Centers Lag Behind Other Industries, But The Hartford Is a Diamond in the Rough

The Hartford sets call center best practices for the insurance industry, which performed poorly overall in a recent customer satisfaction study by CFI Group.

While the insurance industry has made customer service improvements in the past few years, a recent study shows that it still has a way to go when it comes to call center satisfaction. According to the CFI Group's (Ann Arbor, Mich.) Call Center Satisfaction Index, the insurance sector trails all other industries surveyed -- save personal computers -- in terms of call center customer satisfaction.

The insurance industry earned an overall score of 68, which the report called worrisome. Banking call centers scored 77. Catalog retailers earned the highest marks, with a score of 80. The index was based on a 100-point scale.

Sheri Teodoru, program director and partner at CFI Group and the study's author, says insurers can do a better job training contact center representatives. "They need to make sure that the training is in place for the agents that are answering the [customers'] questions," she says.

Call Resolution Comes First

The study showed that customer satisfaction was closely tied to call resolution. Within insurance, the 73 percent of respondents who reported that their issues were resolved also expressed overall call center satisfaction, awarding insurers an average satisfaction score of 80. For the 22 percent (the remaining 5 percent didn't know if their issue had been resolved) whose issues were not resolved, however, the average satisfaction score dropped to an abysmal 29. "While the [insurance call center] representatives were courteous and clearly understood," explains CFI's Teodoru of two areas where the insurance sector received scores of 81 and 82, respectively, "they were really a little bit less effective in handling customer queries [with a score of 73] than some of the more successful industries we measured."

Offering the insurance industry an example of what's possible, first-call resolution is a high priority at The Hartford (Hartford; $27.1 billion in revenue), which has been recognized by J.D. Power and Associates for call center operation customer satisfaction excellence. "The overall efficiency and effectiveness of running the contact center -- a lot of it hangs on that one metric: our ability to solve the customers' requirements right away," explains Steven Shimmel, VP, personal lines operations, The Hartford.

Shimmel names first-call resolution, along with knowledge of the customer, as his two top call center priorities. He says an integrated technology platform used to record contact center phone calls likely has been the most substantial technology investment his department has made over the past three to four years. Shimmel notes that the Hartford's IT group has added extensive functionality around the packaged solution, Verint Witness Actionable Solutions' (Roswell, Ga.) Impact 360 Quality Monitoring system.

"We use it to record all our phone calls," Shimmel explains. "Then, behind the scenes, we're managing that database of information to track our ability to resolve customers' requirements in that first call."

The recording system also allows supervisors to compile an index of best calls, according to Shimmel. Examples of exceptional service are saved to an accessible library, he relates. "If we have another person who perhaps is struggling in a particular situation or skill-set type, we find it really powerful to have them hear their peers model that best behavior," Shimmel explains.

The Hartford also has taken great efforts to train its CSRs in how to deal with specific customers, according to Shimmel. "We try to help our representatives know as much as they possibly can about the end consumer -- who they are, what they're going through in their lives and what they want to accomplish -- and really be empathetic to them."


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