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How New York Life’s Retail Annuities Team Is Rethinking Call Center Metrics

How the Retail Annuities team of a life insurance company with a more than 175-year history is redefining its call center metrics to support new business objectives and improve employee retention and growth.

Simon Walsh of New York Life

When the pandemic hit, we in New York Life’s Retail Annuities team were forced to take a hard look at our call center, especially considering how to further digitize and automate our customer service operation. We realized that a single view of data could enable our customer service professionals to resolve matters more quickly and efficiently. Automation transforms paper forms into web-based workflows, and intelligence elevates our professionals into sales support, knowledge management, and process engineering roles. 

Real change requires more than implementing new technology, it also requires rethinking how best to measure success. Traditional call center metrics around handle time and abandon rate will always be important, but other key performance indicators (KPIs) align more closely to our business objectives. These include:

  1. Revenue per service agent: Can service support sales? We see evidence of it anecdotally all the time. We want to convert this into a hard metric
  2. Revenue and cost savings per new job: How many new kinds of jobs can we create as a result of our digital transformation? We want to measure the cost savings and incremental revenue from those new jobs. 
  3. Cycle time: How do we resolve cases quickly to meet expectations for fast service? We measure cycle time, which is the difference between when customers ask for something — like a withdrawal or an address change — and when we provide a resolution.

Here is a closer look at these call center metrics and the activities that put them into place. 

Call center metric #1: driving revenue per service agent

Many people think of service as a cost center. We see our service agents within Retail Annuities as relationship and business builders.

Automation and self-service channels save our service agents time. We plan to reinvest that time in training our agents to better support customers and our sales teams. 

We intend to use real-time regression analysis to understand the kinds of activities that correlate to outcomes to demonstrate that our service team can actually drive revenue at very low marginal cost — while giving our agents new, career-boosting skills. 

Many people think of service as a cost center. We see our service agents within Retail Annuities as relationship and business builders,” says Simon Walsh, COO of New York Life Retail Annuities.

Call center metric #2: creating new jobs for service agents

New York Life’s Retail Annuities Team, along with the company overall, is committed to employee retention and career growth. We regularly identify certain jobs that we know we’re going to have to staff in the future. Automating paper-based processes will free up service agents to perform a much wider range of activities that drive incremental revenue:

  • Process builders: We will need staff who can build workflows on the Salesforce platform. We actually hired a young woman through the PepUp Tech Program, who received her Salesforce admin certification after she joined our service team, and then went on to become a Lightning App-certified builder.  
  • Knowledge management: Certain service agents have deep expertise in difficult processes like claims payments or setting up a new annuity. Why not capitalize on their knowledge to create a better customer experience? Service agents can write frequently asked questions (FAQs), which customers can access on our help center, chatbots can surface during an interaction, and the service team can use to resolve cases in real time.
  • Sales support: Many of our Retail Annuities service agents have already gone on to roles on the sales desk. These agents can help with customer product consulting, which means that they educate customers about the features in their annuities to drive retention and highlight other opportunities to potentially consider.  

We plan to further formalize our career planning process to ensure that we get people into these roles, which helps both the individual and the business. We’ll review our data and measure our success around cost savings and revenue for each new job created. 

Fact: Automation does not replace service jobs. It actually frees up service agents to focus on a much wider range of activities that drive incremental revenue. 

Call center metric #3: improving cycle time

In layman’s terms, cycle time is the difference between when a case was opened and when it was closed. We use real-time reports and dashboards in the Salesforce platform to review cycle time. This enables us to drill down into the details and look at all of the cases that constitute a particular cycle time. 

We have found this real-time reporting to be very effective, and it has saved us a lot of time in terms of report generation. Seeing these metrics in real time allows us to properly align.

Of course, we need to balance speed with quality. We have a dedicated quality team that reviews our service cases to see if there were opportunities for improvement. When they look at these cases, they provide a quality score. I’m happy to say that we’re north of 98% for the vast majority of cases. 

Another checkpoint is the post-interaction survey. We review net promoter scores (NPS) and ask customers what we could have done better. 

New York Life isn’t alone: 71% of service professionals say they’ve changed or reprioritized call center metrics due to the pandemic. 

We’re proud to further align New York Life Retail Annuities around what matters most to our customers, employees, and business, and that we’re able to give our team the tools and technology they need to succeed professionally and to best serve our customers.

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