A large retirement plan provider employed hundreds of customer service representatives who were trained to supply retirement plan clients with free, custom plan reports when these were requested by clients. The free service was becoming prohibitively costly as the company’s client base grew.
Management needed to help the customer service reps. resist continued requests for free client reports and instead charge clients a reasonable fee for reports. At the same time, the reps. needed to ensure that clients would not move their business to a competitive provider. Compounding the challenge was the prevalent client perception that the retirement plan marketplace had become commoditized.
HOW WE HELPED
Our Discovery process involved arranging focus groups with managers and staff in several servicing cities to assess how the customer service reps. currently interacted with clients. The objective was to customize our Assertive Negotiating program to meet management objectives.
Once Discovery was completed, responses were tabulated and recommendations for building negotiating confidence and competencies, and moving from a reactive mode of negotiating to a proactive mode, were made to management.
Working closely with the insurer’s training department, we customized negotiating training designed to build confidence and provide alternatives to client requests for free, custom reports. We helped the service reps. understand and clearly articulate the insurer’s value proposition and full spectrum of services to company clients.
The training not only had to contain basic negotiating skills, but it had to be job-specific and needed to resonate immediately with the service reps. There was a natural tendency not to want to disappoint or anger clients who had become accustomed to requesting and receiving free custom reports for many years.
An online course was developed to provide reps. with baseline negotiation training and to prepare them for company-led classroom training in service centers throughout the U.S. We trained fifteen of the company’s trainers to conduct the classroom workshops over a period of three months.
With higher confidence in their negotiating abilities, the customer service representatives skillfully assisted clients in preparing their own reports in house and, coincidentally, assisted clients in constructing additional custom reports for which the clients paid fees adequate to cover the insurer’s costs of the reporting. One year after launching the negotiating training sessions, management reported that clients, in independent surveys, expressed greater satisfaction with the insurer’s customer service efforts and recorded higher satisfaction rates for perception of the company’s value proposition.