How UPMC Sets the Standard for Service Excellence

"UPMC is an exemplary case study in customer-focused service. The summaries of tackling growth and turnover challenges are excellent. Congratulations for looking at video for hearing impaired--that could be an exciting future development. Great holistic approach to addressing turnover and growth. A Customer Effort score of 93.1% is impressive!"

-- 2017 ICMI Global Contact Center Awards Judges

The team at UPMC Health Plan is no stranger to winning. Over the years, they've earned industry awards for their use of technology, customer experience, management team, and more. In 2017, they received the coveted ICMI Global Contact Center Award for Best Large Contact Center.

Their achievements are numerous and impressive. A First Contact Resolution score of over 97% and a Customer Effort score over 93% are just two of their proudest accomplishments. But what makes this team so remarkable is their constant drive to improve, and their willingness to address challenges head-on. Their biggest problem over the past year? New hire retention.

Tackling New Hire Turnover Rates

Hiring and retention challenges are only becoming more daunting for the enterprise, especially as the U.S. economy faces a labor shortage. UPMC Health Plan has felt the squeeze.

"Unfortunately, we hit a bump in the road when in November of 2015 we experienced an all-time turnover rate for new hires (within one year). Our teams quickly jumped into action to reduce our turnover, knowing we needed to have an even stronger emphasis on engagement," said Anne Palmerine, vice president, Customer Engagement & Enrollment Services, UPMC Health Plan.

How did they do this? They revamped every aspect of the hiring and training process, from recruiting to onboarding, and training -- and every touch point in between.

One of the most notable changes was involving senior level executives in the process. Now, all new hires have the chance to interact with senior management. UPMC Health Plan hosts a weekly "meet and greet" that allows new hires to interact in small groups with senior leadership. The associate vice president, director of Member Services, and two directors of Enrollment attend each session, with the pure intent of connecting with and learning more about new employees. It's a small gesture that reinforces to the new hires that they made a good decision in joining the team and sets the expectation that they can build a successful career at UPMC Health Plan.

After the initial meet and greet, employees are invited to attend another session six months from their start date. The leadership team sees this continuous communication with front-line employees as an opportunity to help them grow and improve, and agents seem to agree.

"I really appreciate the focus groups and meeting with senior leadership," said UPMC contact center agent John Pignatelli. "I think it helps to drive change for day-to-day operations and is an excellent opportunity for entry level reps to have some input."

The hiring and retention plan overhaul has paid off big time. New hire turnover rates dropped by more than 25% in one year, saving the company $836,000. And the quest to improve continues.

Nurturing Employee Growth

If you've read about other award-winning enterprises, you've probably noticed a common characteristic. Best-in-class service organizations focus on employee growth and development. That's certainly the case at UPMC Health Plan.

Every six months, employees engage in formal career-pathing meetings with their managers. Often, agents express interest in moving to a higher tier of support, but they discuss long-term goals, too. Managers encourage honest, open dialogue about future career opportunities, and work to identify skills and projects that will help them to aspire to the position they are seeking. With individualized resources and information in hand, managers and agents develop an action plan that might include job shadowing in a different department, working on a collaborative project with another team, or networking with colleagues.

As internal positions become available, managers share those with employees who've expressed an interest in related roles. Other departments know that internal hires from the contact center are well trained, intelligent, hardworking, and understand customers better than anyone, which gives agents an edge. And when contact center employees earn a promotion, there's a celebration. Management sends a celebratory email to the entire team, and their department hosts a going away lunch on their last day. Palmerine says she loves watching agents move on to new roles within the company.

"We know that each team member that leaves our department to go to another part of the company takes the spirit of service with them, as well as a strong understanding of our members' needs," she says. "We have watched many of our team members become managers, senior managers, and even directors. We are partnered with them no matter which department they may move to, and it helps to strengthen our company."

Employees see the value in their career-pathing program, too.

"I began my career at UPMC Health Plan on the Member Services team. Through training sessions and constant mentoring, I learned how to become a successful service representative," says Ryan Mathieu, senior manager, Specialty Products Administration. "The call center prepares you for growth in the health insurance industry by teaching you the basics of the business, i.e. how do benefits work? Why did the claim pay a certain way? These questions are complex and require much research, so patience is necessary. My daily interactions and support of team leads and supervisors instilled this quality in me, and for that I am thankful."

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