Ahmed Ayad, Head of Customer Satisfaction and Service Optimization at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, talked about the benefits of his company’s Voice of the Customer machine.
“I’m going to be talking about our Voice of the Customer machine,” stated Ayad at the outset of his keynote presentation at the 2017 Customer Experience Leadership Forum held on April 20 in New York. “We’ve had a tough year. As you can imagine, our customers have a lot of anxiety right now. The most common questions we hear are, ‘Will I have insurance next year?' and 'Will my premium go up?’ Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina is the only company on the health insurance exchange in North Carolina, and we’re thinking of pulling out. If we do that, a lot of people are going to be without insurance. So my team is thinking carefully about the member experience and leveraging that member experience, and that’s what I’ll be sharing today,” he said.
“Our Voice of the Customer machine starts with inputs. If a customer contacts us through the call center and that doesn’t go well, we provide other options. They can call the CEO directly, they can call the Department of Insurance, the Better Business Bureau, or other third parties. All those cases come into our team, and we dissect them to find out what happened.”
Ayad described the next step as determining ‘fact versus fiction’—considering every touchpoint ranging from how the customer explains a situation to how it was understood by customer service to how it was responded to and how it was billed. “We do root-cause analysis to identify the failure points to improve the process,” stated Ayad.
“We do root-cause analysis to identify the failure points to improve the process.”
The next step is creating a value-stream map, a failure-point map. “This outlines every interaction the customer had with the organization, and we flag our failure points and those of the customer. We bring in everyone in the organization to discuss these stories and design improvements. There needs to be a standard process procedure to improve the customer experience, but often we don’t have that,” said Ayad.
“The next step in the Voice of the Customer machine process is measuring the impact. If you don’t measure something, you can’t improve it. We keep track of what we’ve changed as a result of the value-stream map and in response to our customers.”
“If you don’t measure something, you can’t improve it. We keep track of what we’ve changed as a result of the value-stream map and in response to our customers.”
Ayad quoted a lyric from a song by Don Henley: ‘Sometimes you get your best light from a burning bridge.’ “All burning bridges have a silver lining,” he noted. Ayad pointed out how insight can be gained from things that have gone wrong—even really wrong. “The Voice of the Customer machine provides us with light, with knowledge. We share this at our monthly Enterprise Leadership Learning Sessions. We’re constantly learning about our business. Sometimes the biggest improvement you can make is not changing anything in your organization but rather learning more about your market, your processes, and your organization.”
“We’re constantly learning about our business. Sometimes the biggest improvement you can make is not changing anything in your organization but rather learning more about your market, your processes, and your organization.”
Ayad continued, “There’s been a business value to this work. We estimate savings of $350,000 over the past year and a half of doing this work. Savings are calculated based on calls that don’t have to be made to the contact center. We measure how much it costs for a customer to contact us and for us to communicate back and forth with that customer. From that, we figure out a way to reduce this work.”
Ayad posted a quote from Will Rogers: ‘Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.’ “Each one of us in our organization has to do better and we have to do that on our own, proactively, based on our understanding of our customers.”
An audience member asked, “How, in your organization, do you empower people who are closer to the initial customer contact so problems can be resolved quickly?”
“Customers are now put in contact with our team much faster. Our agents are directed to route serious issues directly to our team,” said Ayad. “We’ve hired an additional 20 staff to handle these cases and do root-cause analysis.”
ABOUT AHMED AYAD:
Ahmed Ayad is an executive leader and process improvement expert who currently serves as the Director of Customer Satisfaction and Service Optimization at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina. In addition to this, he serves as an Adjunct Professor at Drexel University where he teaches and creates courses focused on Lean Six Sigma and Project Management. With over 15 years of experience, Ahmed has published and presented numerous Customer Service projects that utilize the Lean Six Sigma methodology. Ahmed previously served as the Director of Process Improvement and Project Management at Cancer Treatment Centers of America.
Ahmed is a certified Master Black Belt from Arizona State University as well as a certified Project Manager. He completed an MBA at Aspen University in Colorado and graduated with a BS degree from North Carolina State University. Ahmed currently resides in Apex, North Carolina.