Friday, January 21, 2011

Your Benefits Center

I had a conversation the other day with an ex-colleague. She was lamenting that at her current employer, you can't just call a person to get a benefits question answered. Instead, you have to go through the maze of touch tones. You know how that goes ... you call an 800 number and a computer voice picks up. You listen to the menu and realize that none of the options fits your question. So, you press '0' and you hear "invalid option." So, you pick one of their options at random which takes you to another menu, and so forth. At one of these lovely prompts, you are asked to enter your social security number, your date of birth, and your maternal grandmother's shoe size.

Finally, you get to a real person. The first thing they do is ask you for your maternal grandmother's shoe size despite your having already answered that question.

STOP! If you are the caller, what are you thinking right now about your company? Somehow, I'm going to guess that at least one of the words is a variation of one of George Carlin's seven words you can never say on television.

That's not good for your company. When you get off the phone, you are probably going to go vent to a friend who works in your office. So, now as the result of the money-saving benefits center, two employees (at least) are unhappy and wasting time. And, you probably still didn't get your question answered properly.

The people who set up and staff these centers need to understand that they are serving clients. In this case, the clients are their own employees. Think about it, if you treated your clients that way, wouldn't you be losing most of them? Of course, you would.

You don't have to hire high-priced people to staff these centers. But, you do need to hire customer service oriented people to staff them. The people who work there should be:

  • Friendly
  • Positive
  • Overachievers
  • Happy
  • Helpful by nature
  • Willing to go the extra mile
Notice that I didn't say smart. Notice that I didn't say that they need a particular level of education. 

Companies measure the savings from benefits centers all wrong. They measure them in a micro world. But, business isn't a micro world. It's time to smell the coffee and smile, rather than causing your employees to use those 7 words.

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