Why John Hancock Uses Salesforce & Amazon Connect for its Call Center


Talking about finances is rarely easy. That’s why the folks at John Hancock put so much energy into their contact center. They’ve worked hard to make it easier for their customers to quickly get on the phone with the right person who can help them make the right financial decision. 

But with over 4 million phone calls coming into their U.S. contact center each year, it was a challenge to get it right. An inflexible legacy telephony system created more than a few headaches for both the customers and the employees. The company needed a better way to win and grow relationships with customers. That’s why an innovative team of service leaders at the company partnered with Salesforce and Amazon Connect to find new solutions to the daily demands of a high volume contact center.

A Business Where Telephone Calls Still Matter

Typically people buy a life insurance policy well before anyone needs to use it. As policyholders age, they start to think about things like long-term care and estate planning. At that point, they’ve been paying the premium for years and often need to have an in-depth conversation on the phone.

“Whether you’re Gen Z or a baby boomer, the expectations are similar: people want to talk to someone,” said Tracy Kelly, AVP at John Hancock. “They want to get to a rep as quickly as possible, and have that representative know why they’re calling and what their past experience has been with the company. When it comes to complex financial products, our customers prefer calling.” 

Before launching Amazon Connect, John Hancock had an older Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system that was based on a menu. Customers called in and selected a series of numbers from a list of options read by a machine. This impersonal experience left customers less than satisfied.

“In general, people don’t like IVRs because it can feel like you’re trapped in them,” said Kelly. “Our original IVR was outdated within four to five years after implementation because customer expectations changed so rapidly. Our service experience didn’t compare with ecommerce companies like Amazon or other customer experience leaders. That’s when we knew we had to do something.” 

A Platform that Wouldn’t Change

John Hancock’s infrastructure at the time was all on-premises, expensive, and fairly inflexible. The company had to spend considerable IT resources whenever the on-premises telephony system needed service. The leadership team realized that the system they had simply wasn’t adaptable and John Hancock really needed a cloud-based solution.

“Our old on-prem system required IT support from multiple groups within our organization,” said Kelly. “Amazon Connect with Service Cloud has a pay-per use cost model and it’s a SaaS solution; John Hancock doesn’t need to support it. The solution really provides the flexibility our business needs to improve both the customer and employee experience while also reducing costs.”

John Hancock started exploring cloud options right around the time that Amazon announced the launch of Amazon Connect. Even though the leadership team spent nearly two years getting buy-in as it moved toward the solution, the results have been well worth it.

“The solution not only meets expectations, it exceeds them,” said Kelly. “And the ability to integrate with Salesforce, which we already had in our life insurance contact center, just adds to the benefits of this cloud solution for telephony.”

How the Team Got Buy-In

Every leadership team that takes on a digital transformation goes through a process of getting internal buy-in. Change management process is a big challenge when evaluating a new telephony solution for an enterprise like John Hancock.

“Approval was given to do a small-scale pilot which ended up being crucial to the larger buy-in,” said Kelly. “It was only 20 agents, maybe 500 calls a day. We let the pilot program run for a couple of months and everyone was very pleased with the combination of Amazon Connect and Service Cloud.” 

After the initial pilot program, the contact center leaders highlighted the benefits of Amazon Connect with Service Cloud to get executive alignment. Kelly and her team talked up the flexibility of the platform and pointed out the savings that could be achieved. They showed that Amazon Connect with Service Cloud would enable the company to offer new types of service that it couldn’t with the current technology. They also mapped out why the current system needed to be replaced, and why the cost of replacing would be less with Amazon and Salesforce. 

“If we replaced our telephony system with another on-prem solution, it would mean paying a consultant to build out a new IVR, which would’ve been extremely expensive and a much longer-term, less flexible deployment,” saud Kelly. “Ultimately, we were able to build the case for change based on our research and the pilot program. We’re now on our way to moving my entire group onto Amazon Connect and Service Cloud.”

Better Service, Stronger Results

Customers who are calling about a life insurance claim are often in a state of crisis. The last thing they want to do is navigate a lengthy customer service menu. The old IVR didn’t recognize John Hancock’s customers automatically. It took about two minutes, on average, for customers to select their options. That number decreased by at least 50% with Amazon Connect and Service Cloud, thanks to a more personalized level of service enabled by a 360-degree view of each customer.

The Amazon LEX bot asks customers why they’re calling, authenticates them, and then offers self-service if they’re calling about straightforward things like an account value or a premium amount. If they’re calling about something more serious, the bot knows where to route the call so the right agent picks up. The bot displays the reason for the call and pulls up relevant information for the agent, ensuring the rep has some background before speaking to the customer.

“Our agents want to be able to offer their condolences if someone is calling to report a death — that’s one of the reasons why the bots are so valuable. They set up the call to be managed more sensitively and efficiently because agents now know exactly why someone’s calling,” said Kelly. “It’s a much more personalized experience for the customer because the rep isn’t going into the call blindly.” 

The customer self-service process is also improved by Amazon Connect and Service Cloud. John Hancock still offers authentication via the Lex bot when customers provide personally identifiable information (PII) but the company no longer requires customers to have a pin for authentication. Instead, it uses Pindrop for fraud detection and voice biometrics. 

“Before, the IVR was full of friction and it was irritating for our customers,” said Kelly. “Now we’re really designing something that’s frictionless and voice-based. You no longer have to pick from a menu of numbers.” 

Improvements for Managers

Customers aren’t the only ones seeing improvements, thanks to Amazon Connect with Service Cloud. Managers now have access to more insights from John Hancock’s call data. The company can automatically transcribe every single call, and then run that transcription through Comprehend. Based on the words and phrases used during the conversation, this program assigns a sentiment that’s positive, neutral, or negative for every single call that comes in. Managers can study sentiment scores to find ways to improve the customer experience.

“We had all this data sitting in audio files that was just really difficult to get to,” said Kelly. “Now, with Amazon Connect, we’re able to get that data immediately, move it to our data lake, and have our data scientists analyze it. We can spot trends and root causes for negative customer sentiment. We can search for nearly any piece of information that management may want.”  

Now that Salesforce loads call transcripts into the Service Cloud call record, service agents are more productive. Since they no longer spend time writing detailed notes about why someone called, handle times are lower on average. 

“Every minute an agent is on a call it costs us, approximately, 75 cents. With over 2.4 million calls a year, that adds up,” said Kelly. “So shortening the handle time helps the management team reach its goals, but also the reps will be even better prepared for the conversation. Service Cloud provides a complete customer history so agents can see what issues the customer may have had in the past.”

A Boon for Recruiting

An improved agent experience also helps the company recruit and retain talent in the contact center. Amazon Connect with Service Cloud means John Hancock can show employees — and candidates — that the company invests in technology that makes work easier and more interesting. Low-value tasks are contained in the IVR so the calls agents end up handling are more challenging and complex.

“We get a fair amount of people right out of college, and they have high expectations for employers in terms of technology,” said Kelly. “When we tell them that we’re utilizing Salesforce with an AWS solution, that’s impressive to them. New Hampshire, our home base, has the third-lowest unemployment rate in the country. So, getting and keeping good people is critical for us.”

John Hancock also keeps its employees happy by enabling agents to work from home. With Amazon Connect and Service Cloud, setting up a work-from-home arrangement is a snap. The company simply sends a laptop, a headset, and a monitor, and the agent is ready to go.

“We have a lot of military spouses who work from home,” said Kelly. “Our old process was quite cumbersome. So the ability to easily set up a work from home agent and train them on tools like Amazon Connect and Service Cloud just makes that process easier too.”

Looking Toward The Future

Amazon Connect and Service Cloud are currently integrated with John Hancock’s insurance org and its annuities org. Now that Amazon Connect and Service Cloud have been successfully integrated within the John Hancock insurance org and its annuities, there are plans to integrate it with the LTC Org as well. The vision is to upgrade all contact centers with Amazon Connect and Service Cloud. A rollout of SMS and Chat are being considered for next year. The company also plans on storing sentiment analysis in Salesforce as well. 

“If you’re somebody who called two months ago and the sentiment score for that call was negative, then the bot will route you to a different kind of high-touch service or a service recovery group,” said Kelly. “Our next phase will take all of that great information and really focus in on the customer experience to maintain strong relationships.”

As John Hancock perfects its customer experience, it will have a strong partner in Salesforce. In 2020, an even more powerful integration of Amazon Connect and Service Cloud will happen with Service Cloud Voice. This advancement should make it even easier for John Hancock to maintain lasting customer relationships.

The Value of a Conversation

Getting customers to the right agent quickly is key for John Hancock’s success. It helps customers make difficult decisions a little more easily. When people face life-changing events, a good customer service experience can mean the world. With Amazon Connect and Service Cloud, John Hancock aids in the decision-making process with new, flexible tools for better telephone conversations that ensure customer loyalty far into the future.



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