Article

Voice-of-the-customer program begins with performance management at call center

Barney Beal, News Director
Before Cuna Mutual Group, a Madison, Wis.-based insurance and investment company, set about piloting a voice-of-the-customer program to measure customer satisfaction, it turned first to managing its own employees and workforce management (WFM) technology.

"In the last quarter of 2005, we realized some of the fundamental things we needed in our call centers from day one [were] quality management and workforce management because [they are] so fundamental in establishing a foundation," said Gary Hartung, senior manager and solutions architect at Cuna Mutual. "Now we can build on that, building out other capabilities -- the voice of the customer being one."

Cuna Mutual offers financial services to credit unions and their members, ranging from lending and protection products for credit unions to insurance and annuities for credit union members. It operates contact centers in three primary locations -- Madison, Waverly, Iowa, and Fort Worth, Tex. -- and handles roughly three million calls a year.

Since 2000, Cuna Mutual has been running call recording technology from Israel-based Nice Systems Ltd. to help the company abide by regulations that cover insurance claims and investment advice (Cuna Mutual's representatives aren't legally permitted to offer investment advice). Last May, the company added Nice Perform, a quality assurance product. At the same time, it was looking at TotalView, a workforce management application from IEX. This was just as

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Nice was acquiring IEX.

Quality monitoring and workforce management have been steadily coming together in recent years under the umbrella of workforce optimization (WFO). In addition to Nice and IEX, Verint acquired Witness in February. Witness itself purchased Blue Pumpkin.

"[The acquisition] was good news in the sense that [a unified platform] was not one of our criteria," Hartung said. "But since then we've developed a strategy about wanting to go with a suite of products as opposed to best in class."

A quick decision

Cuna Mutual didn't draw out its decision by any means. The project team that selected the system -- which consisted of a representative from each call center site, Hartung, a business architect and an IT solutions architect -- got down to a short list in March of last year and gave the vendors an ultimatum.

"When we were starting to interview the three vendors, we told them, 'Here's our timeline,'" Hartung said. "We had four weeks to make a decision and two weeks to negotiate a contract and price. We said, 'If you can't play in that space -- and by the way we need to be live by June 1 -- don't come to the demo.'"

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Cuna Mutual actually missed the negotiation deadline by three days, not because of any trouble in reaching an agreement but because the person responsible for granting final approval was out sick.

It was far more than just a matter of installing some new technology, however. Cuna Mutual undertook the project to improve the customer experience, and that relied on a consistent experience no matter which center calls came into, Hartung said.

Once a month, evaluators score four recorded calls based on such factors as how the call was opened and how it was closed, and agent and customer behavior during the call. Call center supervisors then select two of the calls, share the scores with agents, and sit down to review them under the "positive coaching approach," Hartung said. It's a method Cuna Mutual adopted -- with help from an outside consulting firm -- that stresses what the agent is doing right during the interaction. After each session, agents are given one or two things they need to work on, and they're measured against those the following month. Nice also shows how agents moved through the system during the call with screen captures.

It's a much different approach from the old call capture system where evaluators would score the call and say, "Here's what you did wrong," Hartung said.

"You always hear you're not just giving someone a piece of technology," he said. "So when we implemented the Nice system and IEX workforce management, we made sure we had change management in place and proper coaching. There's a set sequence of events."

Cuna Mutual took a similar approach with the workforce management side of the deployment. It is now piloting a voice-of-the-customer program, determining a new way to measure customer satisfaction that may use post-call feedback technology. IT will compare how the customer satisfaction relates to the quality monitoring efforts.


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