Illustration by Nicolas Vicent

Agility is key to success in today’s rapidly changing business environment. No operation is more familiar with the need to quickly adapt to changes in the market and evolving customer expectations than Pacific Life’s Retirement Solutions Division’s (RSD) contact center. The operation has built a reputation for delivering a seamless, low-effort service experience despite a complex, extensive product line.

“The RSD contact center is a ‘one-stop shop,’ says Lorene Gordon, Pacific Life’s senior vice president of Operations & PMO, Retirement Solutions Division. “We assist our customers (both annuity contract owners and financial professionals) with trades between investment options, withdrawals from their annuity, and clarifications on pending annuity transactions. We will answer any question received about our annuity contracts, from the submission of new business through any part of the lifecycle of the annuity product.”

The contact center’s unique one-stop-shop model impressed judges for the American Business Awards, who recognized the RSD operation last year with a 2014 Gold Stevie Award for Customer Service Department of the Year.

More recently, the contact center received a 2015 Gold Stevie Award for Contact Center of the Year for improving employee engagement and retention. The center successfully employed “voice of the employee” techniques to capture and act on employee feedback.

“These awards are a reflection of our division’s ability to continually shift our processes to meet the ever-changing needs of our very fluid industry and work environment,” states Gordon.

Service as a Key Differentiator

Pacific Life’s RSD contact center is staffed by 99 FTEs who support RSD customers via phone, web and email. The center is committed to delivering on the organization’s customer-centric vision, which is set forth in its “Pacific Life Promise” to customers. “Our ‘Pacific Promise’ outlines our commitments to all of our customers,” says Gordon. “It focuses on the timeliness of handling transactions and resolution of complex requests.”

The center is also guided by an Operations Mission Statement, which simply states: “Through Service Excellence, we are a key differentiator in choosing to do business with Pacific Life.” As Gordon explains: “Our customer service area is an integral part of upholding our Pacific Promise and Mission Statement by ensuring that each customer’s inquiry is responded to promptly and with the highest quality.”

For customers, one of the key differentiators of the contact center’s service delivery is its one-stop-shop model, which has not only helped to distinguish Pacific Life from its competitors, but has resulted in high customer loyalty and retention. To maintain a low-effort experience, the center relies on its voice of the customer program, which enables it to continually collect direct client feedback, quickly identify opportunities for improvement and promptly take action to adapt and evolve processes.

Using Employee Feedback to Identify Growth Opportunities

Although providing one-stop service appears seamless to customers, keeping pace with continual change requires the right backstage processes in place to ensure that frontline staff are kept up to date with the training and knowledge to support an extensive and ever-expanding product line.

“Twenty years ago, Pacific Life had a couple of products, no optional riders and no website, and our variable annuities had less than a dozen investment options,” Gordon explains. “Today, we have over 100 annuities, and not only does RSD support several products spanning the spectrum of annuity investments (i.e., variable, fixed, immediate and index annuities), but we also support the entire history of legacy products and options offered in the past. Whether you bought or sold one of our products yesterday or during the Clinton administration, you will receive the same level of service.”

In an environment of continuous change, the majority of staff development time is often allocated to product and process updates and training. To ensure that the center’s management team was fully supporting its most valued resource, the RSD leaders launched an employee engagement survey to capture anonymous feedback about the work environment, which opportunities, benefits and resources were most valued by staff, and how effective the organization was at delivering on them.

“Pacific Life learned many valuable lessons through the survey and the post-survey work that we did,” Gordon recalls. “One of the areas in which our management team was most enlightened was around what the teams felt to be development versus what we saw as development. While we felt that helping someone understand how to best perform in their current role was development, our staff did not always see it that way.

“Our reps see development as the key skills that their leaders are helping them develop for whatever they see as their future role in the company,” she adds. “The types of opportunities are important, but of much greater importance is that the rep feels like their entire management team is invested in their long-term career development.”

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