Promises are the most personal and binding of commitments, and therefore are to be made carefully, kept fully, and broken only in the most extenuating cases and with thorough explanations.
So, when a company, its contact center, and its agents makes and keeps its promises to help its customers, and in an industry that has unfortunately earned some notoriety for breaking them, then they should be recognized and applauded, and its example followed.
Meet EFG Companies, a third-party consumer protection product provider that has its headquarters and contact center in Irving, Texas. The company’s suite of products include vehicle service contracts, vehicle maintenance plans, vehicle return protection, and home warranties.
EFG assists contract holders and adjudicates claims through a dedicated team of technically-trained, experienced ASE (National Institute of Automotive Service Excellence)-certified claims adjusters, contact center agents, (referred to internally as customer service advisors), supervisors, and managers.
These professionals apply their average 25 years of experience in providing quality customer service and claims adjudication.
EFG has a roster of 55 people on its contact center team, broken down as follows:
- 33 claims adjusters; most of their interactions happen with service advisors at the dealership level or at independent repair facilities.
- 14 customer service advisors; most of their interactions happen with contract holders.
- 5 contract administrators. They manage the processes around setting up and cancelling contracts; most of their interactions with customers happen when people want to transfer their coverage to another driver, cancel their contracts, or experience a total loss and need a contract refund.
- 3 claims payment processors; most of their interactions also happen with service advisors.
This team is supported by EFG’s proprietary DRIVE portal and website for contract holders to help clients and consumers self-manage their EFG products.
Additionally, the team relies upon a virtual inspection technology and EFG’s proprietary reporting platforms to streamline the claims adjudication process.
EFG’s virtual inspection process helps to further speed up the process by allowing service managers to provide photo and video documentation of their vehicle inspections directly to EFG from their cellphones.
“EFG Companies operates within an industry whose reputation has been tainted by large players that have approached claims adjudication and customer service antagonistically with a ‘deny-only’ mindset,” said Jay Hartmann, Vice President, Operations, EFG Companies.
“Meanwhile, for 45 years, we have always striven to set an example and raise the bar in providing superior customer service and fulfilling the terms of our contracts.”
The EFG Promise
EFG has believed that longevity and success is ultimately measured by a simple premise – keeping a promise to a customer at a time when they need it most, said Hartmann.
The company has striven to innovate and administer quality consumer protection products that benefit its clients, as well as the end consumers.
Founded in 1977 to provide automotive dealers premier consumer protection products and training programs, EFG has broadened and extended its client base to include automotive lenders and specialized agents who serve as the facilitators for finance and insurance services between the product administrators and automotive dealers.
The company also now offers powersports vehicle service contracts and direct-to-consumer automotive and home warranty protection.
EFG prides itself on being a claims-honoring organization and is constantly monitoring and adapting its efforts to best serve its customers. In early 2014 EFG became the only contact center in the industry to be awarded the Blue Seal of Excellence by the ASE. To date, the company still maintains ASE certification for all claims adjusters.
“We have maintained our strategic intent to provide valuable solutions based upon changing market dynamics coupled with a standard of customer service not found in the industry.” —Jay Hartmann
“This was a statement to the industry that EFG took responsibility for the quality of its team and for the correct adjudication of claims,” said Hartmann.
At the same time, EFG partnered with BenchmarkPortal to explore how the company measured against the competition and ensure that it followed industry best practices.
BenchmarkPortal Researchers validated EFG’s best-practice metrics against its database of objective and quantitative data to determine its overall performance. The company has audited EFG six times in the past eight years.
BenchmarkPortal named EFG a Center of Excellence for six years in a row, ranking the company in the top 10% of contact centers across all industries.
During its first engagement attempt, EFG again became the only contact center in the retail automotive industry to be certified as a Contact Center of Excellence by BenchmarkPortal.
EFG has never rested on its laurels. In 2017 the company launched EFG DRIVE portal and website.
EFG DRIVE enables clients to:
- Electronically rate, contract, and submit aftermarket products.
- Electronically submit, self-adjudicate, and receive automatic claims approvals.
- Speed up month-end accounting reconciliation with online billing.
- Receive instant access to a full business intelligence analytics dashboard with metrics to drive client business forward easily and efficiently.
EFG’s website for contract holders provides consumers access to:
- Sample PDF contracts, as well as full benefits and terms information.
- A claims tracker with all active claims.
- Total dollar amount of claims paid.
- Proactive notification of contract expiration.
- The ability to request a cancellation.
- Tap or click-to-connect for roadside assistance and emergencies.
- The ability to purchase other protection products and services.
“In our 45 years of providing nationally award-winning consumer protection products, we have maintained our strategic intent to provide valuable solutions based upon changing market dynamics coupled with a standard of customer service not found in the industry,” said Hartmann.
“This is built on EFG’s mission to mobilize a talented team to engage intensely, reliably, transparently, and innovatively; driving profitable results with the values of dependability, respect, integrity, visionary, and excellence.”
Meeting Evolving Challenges
The biggest challenge resulting from this evolution is the need for scalability and for quality customer service.
Each time EFG broadens its client base or consumer protection products the company must evaluate whether to bring on new talent to adjudicate those claims or train the current team, or possibly both.
To drastically improve scalability, EFG has made significant investments in equipping the team with technology solutions to streamline both claims and client service.
The company has also invested heavily in training and certifying team members across all aspects of customer service, including ASE certification, PMP certification, and general management training.
Over the last few years, EFG also implemented process changes to empower adjusters to manage claims more effectively.
- Conducted daily management and engagement sessions where managers reviewed all open claims and provided the adjusters with specific action items necessary to close out each claim.
- Established an easy-to-use digital contract catalog for adjusters to utilize in the claims process under the mantra to ALWAYS look up the contracts.
- For the last five years, EFG required each claims adjuster to maintain ASE certification. In 2018 EFG utilized that certification and each adjuster’s tenure in the industry to give them more authority to approve claims without manager approval, shortening the claims lifecycle significantly. For quality assurance that all claims are handled appropriately and compliantly, the company implemented an ongoing claims audit process.
- Segmented the claims adjusters, assigning more complex, lengthy claims to more seasoned adjusters, thereby enabling all adjusters to process claims more efficiently.
Within a single year of implementing a few technology upgrades and process changes, EFG reduced the claim lifecycle by 56% while maintaining service level excellence.
As a result, even when moving to a fully remote environment during the COVID-19 pandemic, EFG’s key performance indicators (KPIs) outperformed industry standards:
- 70% of its total claims are one-call claims.
- Average speed to answer of 57 seconds.
- Call abandonment rate of less than 3.5%.
- Average claims call handle time benchmarks at less than six minutes.
- 95% of all claims are paid by corporate credit card within two hours of receipt of invoice.
Not coincidentally, EFG achieved record growth for the past two years. The company’s dedicated efforts to drive results and support its clients resulted in an increase in average client profit per retail unit sold (PRU) to $2,051.
Even with consolidation challenges in the retail automotive market, EFG grew revenues 60% faster than the average S&P 500 company, deepened relationships with 213 clients, added 26 new accounts, and increased the number of products carried within existing accounts.
“However, as we push the company forward, scalability will continue to be a big challenge that we will meet head-on,” said Hartmann.
EFG’s commitment, effort, achievements, and success has not gone unnoticed. Since 2014, EFG’s contact center has received 10 Stevie Awards from the American Business Awards (ABA), the U.S.’s top business awards program, including:
- 4 Gold awards
- 3 Silver awards
- 3 Bronze awards
In 2022 the Gold Award in Contact Center (Up to 100 Seats) recognized EFG’s contact center for maintaining customer service and information security excellence while operating in an 80% remote environment.
In a company survey, 99% of all contact center team members rated engagement, communication, and collaboration as positive in the new working model.
Additionally in 2022 EFG won a Silver Award in the Incentive, Rewards, or Recognition Provider of the Year category for accelerating engagement with the company’s claims adjuster team, resulting in over 90% of the team feeling motivated, collaborative, and in good communication with other team members.
Lastly, EFG took home three Bronze awards in the following categories:
- Business Development Achievement of the Year – Financial Services Industries for achieving banner growth in a globally challenging year.
- Best Use of Thought Leadership in Business Development through the company’s marketing communications efforts.
- Incentive, Rewards, or Recognition Provider of the Year category for EFG’s dedicated efforts to drive results and support its clients, helping clients of all sizes remain profitable and maintain their competitive edge against the largest public retailers in the country.
Honoring organizations of all types and sizes and the people behind them, the Stevies recognize outstanding performances in the workplace worldwide. The ABA receive more than 10,000 entries each year from organizations in more than 60 nations.
EFG received these awards specifically for the company’s investment in supporting the contact center team through initiatives including new technology solutions, training, incentive and reward programs, and dedication to ongoing measurement and improvement.
“I am so proud of the resourcefulness of EFG’s leaders, the ownership that our employees take in ideation around efficiencies, and our account team’s depth of relationship and fortitude in driving revenue growth,” said John Pappanastos, President and CEO, EFG Companies. “EFG’s entrepreneurial culture definitely equipped us well to face ‘the new world’ confidently and successfully.”
EFG is constantly continuing to evolve. The company is always looking for profitable new products and markets with strong growth potential. And it is examining its processes and technologies to support them, constantly tackling the questions of how to provide quality customer service while also scaling the business.
“We launch a new product or enter a new market, scale the business to match it, and rinse and repeat,” said Hartmann. “It’s honestly a great time to be at EFG. It feels like we are on the precipice to creating something much larger than the sum of its parts.”
Running a contact center can be complex, but strategic goals and initiatives become easy to identify if you view each transaction from your customer’s standpoint.
“My advice for any contact center director would be to manage the details of the operation on a ‘real time’ basis and the results will come,” said Hartmann.