Recently our team embarked on a journey that flew in the face of traditional wisdom. We took a large class of new hires, in a call center environment, and took them through a 40 hour online course in one week. The biggest challenge: They were attempting to become licensed insurance agents!
The Affordable Health Care Act or ObamaCare is causing a dramatic expansion of health care call centers as 25 million new health care customers come into the system over the next 60 months. According to the Bureau of Labor statistics 2,187,300 customer service representatives (CSRs) work in national call centers. Several hundred thousands work in dedicated insurance calls centers. The need to quickly and cost efficiently license thousands of new call center representatives call for new thinking and quick action.
Let me paint a picture for you: Michael Lewis published a book entitled Moneyball in 2003 that changed the game of baseball. The premises are that the collective wisdom of baseball experts is often flawed and old metrics such as stolen bases, runs batted in and batting average were not the key measurements of building a winning team. The new approach was saber metrics and flew in the face of tradition. By changing strategies, the Oakland Athletics, with a $41 million payroll, became competitive with the New York Yankees, who had a $121 million payroll in the same year.
How does is that related to licensed insurance agents working in a call center environment? The average education of the CSR is a high school graduate; the pay is low, often starting at $10.50 per hour with seasoned employees making $14. 64 per hour or $30,460 per year. Turnover approaching 100% per year complicates the problem. Termination of managers who cannot deliver on time and on budget is common. An unfair game indeed!
360training was recently approached by one of the nation’s largest call centers to develop a fast track licensing system to rapidly bring licensed people online. Traditional classroom and online solutions were too slow, not affordable or inflexible. Here are some best practices learned.
1. Set realistic obtainable goals
Many call centers do not fully appreciate the difficulty of earning a full general lines life and health license that has reciprocity and allows selling new accounts. On the other hand many licensing vendors do not appreciate the velocity and speed at which a large call center operates. You have to see one of these operations running 24/7 at full tilt to fully appreciate the challenge.
2. Preparation is the key
Verify everything! A comprehensive checklist was developed of steps to take prior to the school and a day by day and hour by hour schedule. Take a shortcut at your peril.
3. Understand what business we are in
Teaching insurance, in our opinion, is not the most important part of the licensing process. Dealing with extreme fear of taking an exam, learning test taking strategies and changing mentality from that of a victim to a person who is prepared and confident is a critical and usually overlooked component. The prepared student faces no surprises on test day because they have been coached on every step from walking in the test center door to successfully pass the exam and walking out of the door a winner.
4. Deliver knowledge in a way most effective for the student
Classroom courses are expensive and slow. Online courses are fast and cheap but do not address some of the most important factors that will determine success. Blended systems with a seasoned instructor who can work with the class via teleconference or short personal instructional sessions seem to be a good comprise.
5. Use the best tools available
Take advantage of the advantages. Often call center students cannot be assigned homework because they are not paid for time outside their scheduled training class time . Providing the right material and the right system for voluntary study is critical.
6. Results are what count
A group of call center students recently went through the state licensing exam and the group had a high pass ratio. This blended approach was a HUGE success.