With over 4.8M members, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBSM) was the largest health care insurance company in Detroit at the time, selling traditional, PPO, POS and Medicare packages. One of the organizations within BCBSM is the Auto National Operations (ANO) which serves numerous national accounts, including major automobile manufacturers like Ford, General Motors, and Daimler Chrysler among others. ANO's workforce is unionized as part of the United Auto Workers, with work conditions dictated in a written master agreement. Current rules dictated a Monday-Friday <8 hour shift, but that was not meeting call demand or minimal customer service expectations. Coleman Consulting Group was hired to engage with ANO to search for opportunities to reduce costs while improving customer service levels.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan
INDUSTRY: Customer Service/Health Care
WORLDWIDE EMPLOYEES: 9,000
UNION AFFILIATE: UAW (United Auto Workers)
BCBS MEMBERS: 4.8 million
HEADQUARTERS: Detroit, Michigan
Challenged with improving customer service levels, ANO's management team decided to focus on their service centers. Six service centers were organized around distinct customer groups and operated independently from one another. A workforce management software tool was purchased in an effort to reduce costs and improve the scheduling process for the phone inquiry groups. After the implementation of the software, ANO's management worried that the skills and knowledge did not exist internally to fully optimize how the application would be used to meet their business goals. Coleman Consulting Group began with a clearly defined process, starting with a thorough operational analysis to gain an understanding of every aspect of the business, from scheduling practices to performance measures. We found that the scheduling software was only being used properly in one service center, and two service centers had reverted back to manual scheduling. Service goals of 80/20 could not be met despite some sharing of skill sets between written CSR's and phone CSR's. There was a chronic mismatch between call volumes and agent scheduling, which lead to costly over and understaffing. The flexibility to schedule properly to alleviate the mismatch was severely constrained by the labor agreements and lack of a part-time workforce. With pending negotiations just weeks away, a prime opportunity existed for BCBSM and the UAW to discuss alternative schedules.
Through this engagement, ANO received a solution that addressed business needs, customer experience, and employee preferences. After helping install a process infrastructure and develop formal procedures, Coleman Consulting Group showed ANO how to optimize their forecasting and scheduling practices within their workforce management software. With the implementation of alternative work schedules, ANO is estimated to save millions of dollars annually by reducing over staffing and understaffing on an hourly, daily and weekly basis. The results allowed ANO's management to reduce their operating budget by $1,200,000 million dollars. The customer experience was improved with the implementation of alternative schedules, allowing ANO to staff the right number of agents at the right time. As the management team and scheduling teams continue to refine their work practices, parent company Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan will continue to increase their savings in the years to come.
Coleman Consulting Group brought a decade of experience in labor negotiations and agreements to the process, providing guidance and necessary language changes to implement alternative schedules. Schedules were optimized within the existing contract language to match call patterns and to reduce levels of over and understaffing. This required many hours to be spent utilizing actual data within the software. Procedures were developed to document the process, so that consistency could be achieved across all six service centers. Up until this point, all focus had been on the business and customer experience, and with thousands of alternative schedules available, it was time to understand what schedules the employees were interested in working. Results of the employee surveys conducted by CCG showed a strong desire to work 4-day weeks with 10-hour shifts, allowing for more annual days off and some built-in 3 day weekends. More importantly, alternative schedules could be designed to match call volumes and times, resulting in better customer service. CCG partnered with ANO to interpret how existing work, pay and coverage policies would apply to the new alternative schedules, and a communication strategy was put in place to keep employees informed when the new schedules were introduced and implemented.
“Each queue at a call center can have a unique function, and in this case we refined the priorities, changed the service level to an acceptable 80/40, and optimized schedules to match call arrival patterns which reduced over/understaffing and saved ANO a lot of money.”
-Frank Pereira, Managing Partner at Coleman Consulting Group