Broker blog from Delta Dental

Category: Inside Delta Dental (Page 1 of 3)

Get to know the people behind the scenes at Delta Dental.

Customer service — reimagined

Customer satisfaction is about more than products. To ensure that customers are truly satisfied, the customer service they receive must be as outstanding as the product they purchase.

To take the customer service experience to a new level, we’ve introduced CX Reimagined, a training program that transforms the relationship between our customers and representatives, creating a transaction that’s more empathetic, intuitive and satisfying than ever before.

After two years of development, design and implementation, more than 1,000 full-time Delta Dental Customer Operations employees, including agents, supervisors and leaders, are scheduled to complete CX Reimagined by October 2021.

Putting the customer in customer service

Delta Dental’s customer service had been effective ­— in 2020, agents answered 12.7 million calls and resolved 99% of issues on the first call. It needed to be something more, though, said Ben Sieke, Director of Talent Development & Learning.

“Initially, our biggest goal was efficiency: Let’s take as many calls as we can as quickly as we can,” Sieke said. “But there was opportunity for us to look at this differently. Not to move away from running an efficient business, obviously, but instead to put the customer front and center. Every time somebody calls in, there’s an opportunity for us to delight them.”

Sieke said that while his team briefly considered purchasing training from an outside vendor, they quickly realized that the only way to ensure that this new set of customer service standards could be achieved was to design the training in house.

“We said, let’s create a custom Delta Dental learning experience for our people,” Sieke said. “CX Reimagined training is specifically for our employees, and it feels that way. It’s designed so that it feels real and relevant to their jobs.”

Answering the questions customers didn’t ask

One of the main focuses of CX Reimagined is to develop soft skills that enable agents to interact more effectively and personably with customers, said Earl Parker, Delta Dental’s Vice President of Customer Operations. These skills include empathy, active listening and de-escalation.

“Far too often, we want to jump in and solve without really understanding the issue,” Parker said. “So part of the training speaks to how you actively listen, how you affirm what you’ve heard to make sure that you’re going to answer and solve for the right thing.”

Another aspect of the training is teaching agents how to ask probing questions, questions that require more than a “yes” or “no” answer and help agents discover underlying or additional issues customers have.

“If our agents answered only the question that was asked of them, they would miss an opportunity to answer the bigger question, to solve the bigger issue, the customer has,” Sieke said. “Being a bit more empathetic and curious enables us to solve the whole problem at once.”

And these soft skills set Delta Dental’s service apart for the customer, Parker said.

“That’s viewed as by the customer as going above and beyond, not just servicing. And I think that’s important if we want to truly enhance the experience,” Parker said.

The results are in

While the intent to do better is there, one question looms large: Did it work? Did the training objectively improve the customer experience? Based on early results, the answer appear to be yes.

Customers rate Delta Dental’s customer service based on two sets of criteria:

  • Net Promoter Score (NPS), which is based on a zero-to-10 ranking of how likely customers are to recommend Delta Dental’s customer service to others
  • Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT), where customers rank the service they received on a one-to-15 scale

Since CX Reimagined was launched in July 2020, both these metrics have improved substantially, according to a recent study on the training’s impact. Also encouraging was that a performance increase was seen in all employees.

“What’s interesting is that the most dramatic improvements were among the lower performers, the agents who were struggling,” Sieke said. “If you weren’t good at this and were lacking these skills, you acquired them in training and now you’re doing a great job.”

This is only the beginning

For CX Reimagined, the end of this phase is just the first step in an ongoing journey, Parker said.

Among the next steps he envisions are an annual refresher training for agents and doing more to help agents serve the broker and benefits administrator communities.

Analyzing customer data more closely to understand issues completely is another goal.

“For instance, if we find that members with a certain plan option are generally more dissatisfied than members who have other plan options, then we need to look at the data to understand what’s wrong,” Parker said. “That way we can fix it so those members are happier with the product.”

And making customers happier through expert, friendly, proactive customer service is the goal of CX Reimagined.

“We want our employees to be fully engaged in helping our members and providers navigate Delta Dental,” Parker said. “We want them to be fully engaged in providing easy experiences for members and providers, and we want them to be fully equipped to provide these experiences.”

Clients rate Delta Dental’s onboarding process outstanding

The Delta Dental onboarding process is smooth sailing, according to new clients. According to the results of a recent survey, most new Delta Dental group clients found their onboarding experience to be exceptional.

Among more than 200 new clients who completed the survey, 98% rated Delta Dental’s Customer Onboarding team as very good or excellent. Also noteworthy is that the Customer Onboarding team didn’t receive a single negative review.

In the survey, clients were asked to rate the service they received from their Onboarding Project Manager based on these criteria:

  • Provided oversight on end-to-end setup to ensure the project stayed on track and overall client satisfaction was met
  • Provided timely response and follow-up to client phone calls and emails
  • Was knowledgeable about the client’s benefit plan
  • Communicated potential problems quickly
  • Provided service that met the client’s expectations

“The survey speaks volumes to the client’s experience during implementation,” said Christina Snyder, Delta Dental’s Director of Client Onboarding. “One of a new client’s biggest fears when moving carriers is the onboarding process and all the headache that can arise. We understand that, and that’s why we’ve been developing our onboarding process for over a decade.”

The Customer Onboarding team acts as the project management expert throughout the onboarding process. Each new client is assigned an Onboarding Project Manager, who leads external and internal teams through requirement sessions, documenting client expectations and managing the timeline and milestones. The Onboarding Project Manager also identifies, communicates and mitigates risks.

Snyder said that the Onboarding Project Manager’s goal is to ensure that timing and accuracy expectations are not only met but exceeded: “They’re the client champion throughout the implementation.”

Each new client is also provided an online client dashboard. The dashboard provides instant access to vital information, including:

  • Real-time timeline and requirements
  • Minutes and action items
  • A contact list
  • Benefits administrator documents
  • Online training sessions and demos
  • A client feedback survey

So remember, for your group clients, a stellar onboarding experience is just one more example of the excellent value and customer service your clients get with a Delta Dental plan.

Millennials love their insurance jobs?!

2‑minute read

When Sarah Lee asked herself what she wanted to do when she grew up, she did what any millennial might do: She Googled it. “I searched ‘good at math, but don’t want to be a teacher’, and actuary was one of the first things that came up,” she says.

About a decade later, Lee is now happily in her second year as a senior actuarial analyst at Delta Dental. It might not sound like the most “millennial” career, but a job in the insurance industry offers more appeal to the rising workforce than it might seem on the surface.

A recent survey from Vertafore© found that “87% of millennials in the industry would recommend a career in insurance” to their friends. What’s more, 76% have been in insurance for more than three years and 72% plan to stay in the industry as long as possible, bucking the popular stereotype of millennial job hopping.

For millennials at Delta Dental, the excitement of an industry that’s always changing keeps them engaged at work.

“There’s always something new in your current role, so you never really get bored of what you’re doing,” says Ben Calderon, senior actuarial analyst. “That’s definitely important. I don’t want to feel stagnant in my position.”

Conversely, Calderon says millennials fuel the evolution of the industry with new ideas and skills.

That’s what attracted Shamekha Ghani to the newly created role of business intelligence manager at Delta Dental. Feeling like her previous position had gotten too routine, she jumped at the chance to “have a big impact” in her job.

“Millennials are very driven by learning, by having challenges,” she says. “They’re really concerned about their career development. They really want to feel like they’re making progress.”

Even in traditional roles, a fresh perspective can make a big difference. When Taylor Granville started at Delta Dental, she saw an opportunity to take her account manager position to a new level.

Granville was originally drawn to the client-facing nature of the role—rather than the world of insurance. But now she’s a major advocate for the importance of dental benefits, and she loves speaking with people and giving them the opportunity to enroll and improve their oral health.

“If you’re driven and you like to make a difference in people’s lives, then it’s definitely the industry to be in,” Granville says.

She adds that the strong insurance job market may allow young millennials to get a fast start on a career.

The intrigue of a stable job with room for advancement might sound old-fashioned, but it’s not completely lost on millennials.

“When I was choosing what career path to go down, I was really focused on [job] stability, and I feel like a lot of my peers were not,” Lee says.

The insurance industry might not seem flashy enough for some millennials, but the ones who found themselves at Delta Dental have found a lot to like. And they can see why 87% of their surveyed peers would recommend a job in insurance.

 

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Congresswoman Handel visits Delta Dental’s Alpharetta office

3‑minute read

Delta Dental welcomed U.S. Representative Karen Handel (GA‑6) to our Alpharetta office in metro Atlanta on Thursday to meet with our employees, discuss legislative issues and celebrate a vibrant business community in North Fulton County.

Rep. Karen Handel speaking to employees at Delta Dental’s Alpharetta, GA office

Rep. Handel’s visit began with a brief tour of the facility for our Direct to Consumer (D2C) business segment, which is focused on delivering affordable dental care products for individuals and promoting access to dental care across the country.

According to the National Association of Dental Plans, 74 million Americans had no dental coverage at the end of 2016. Through health care exchanges and membership programs like AARP, our D2C business unit is aiming to provide coverage to the uninsured as well as those who may lose employer-sponsored coverage upon retirement. With roughly 10,000 Americans retiring every day, the opportunity to provide coverage and peace of mind continues to grow.

Employees in Delta Dental’s D2C facility in Alpharetta, GA

Rep. Handel and Delta Dental delegates discussed opportunities to make dental coverage more widely available through the health insurance marketplace by allowing individuals to purchase a dental plan without requiring the purchase of medical coverage.

“Delta Dental has been hard at work with their D2C initiative to bring new markets to the forefront. Through this program, people have better options for dental coverage in the health care marketplace,” says Rep. Handel. “Additionally, I applaud their commitment to our community and to provide greater dental insurance access.”

Rep. Handel also took the opportunity to address a broad range of questions from employees. For instance, she responded to questions about legislation on local transportation, including a $184 million federal grant to expand GA State Route 400.

We are fortunate to welcome policymakers into our workplace to celebrate our mutual successes, and to work toward a better future both on a national scale and within our local communities. Delta Dental looks forward to continuing our work with federal lawmakers and regulatory agencies to improve access to quality dental care across the country.

Congresswoman Karen Handel speaking with delegates from Delta Dental in Alpharetta, GA

On Rep. Handel’s visit, Senior Legislation and Policy Analyst Stephanie Berry says, “We really appreciate the opportunity to discuss a federal policy issue affecting our D2C business with the congresswoman. Currently, the only way to purchase dental plans on the health care exchanges is by first purchasing medical coverage. If the system were updated to allow Americans to purchase dental directly on the exchanges, millions more Americans, including the millions of retirees on Medicare, would have the opportunity to purchase affordable, high-quality dental.”

For more information about our work on health care policy, meet our staff of policy experts.

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Delta Dental is making moves

After 30 years at 100 First Street in San Francisco, we’re moving our corporate headquarters. We’re making our move right across the street to 560 Mission Street.  We’re also opening an office across the bay in downtown Oakland, which will help us to better serve our clients and business partners with an expanded presence across the Bay Area. Our East Bay office will be located in downtown Oakland at 1333 Broadway.

San Francisco office

New office location in San Francisco at 560 Mission Street

Oakland office

New office location in downtown Oakland at 1333 Broadway

While this is exciting news, our move will have virtually zero effect on our clients and enrollees. Our physical addresses will change, but you can still reach your sales contact(s) via email and phone with no changes.

Additionally, our service center locations are not involved in the move, so there will be no impact on correspondence, claims and contact center operations.

Please feel free to direct any inquiries to media@delta.org, or visit us online at deltadentalins.com.

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What do you get when you mix pediatric dentistry and Georgia football?

5‑minute read

Answer: One compassionate Delta Dental claims consultant

For the second interview in our series on dental consultants, we’re shining a spotlight on Dr. Thomas Gale in our Alpharetta, Georgia office.

One part enthusiastic college football fan, one part dedicated pediatric dentist and one part collaborative Delta Dental team member, Dr. Gale is a whole lot more interesting than pop culture gives him credit for.

Let’s get to know him.

We’ll start with an easy question. How long have you been with Delta Dental? And what did you do before joining the team?

I’ve worked at Delta Dental for about five years now, and I’ve been a dental consultant the whole time. Before this I was in private practice for 20 years, specializing in pediatric dentistry.

OK, and what do you do here? What does it mean to be a dental consultant?

I’m a consultant for our DeltaCare® USA, or DHMO-type, product. Basically, a patient goes to the dentist, who submits a claim for their work, and then I evaluate the claim based on the patient’s benefits. We make sure that claims are accurate. After reviewing a detailed summary of a visit and any x‑rays, we determine whether or not coverage is applied fairly and appropriately.

I’d also say that we advocate for both providers and patients. We want them to get most out of the available benefits.

So if you had to summarize your job using an analogy, what would it be?

I’m like a dental referee. If only that applied to Georgia football!

Ouch — yes! A tough National Championship game for the Bulldogs. Speaking of challenges, what are the biggest challenges you face in your work?

One of the most common issues is incorrect codes being submitted. For instance, a claim is submitted with the wrong tooth number, or is coded as a bridge retainer instead of a crown. It’s just human error, but it can greatly impact a claim and the patient’s experience if it isn’t reviewed.

What do you like about your job? What about working at Delta Dental?

I liked owning my own practice, but at a certain point it’s refreshing to be able to concentrate solely on the clinical side of dentistry. There is also a strong camaraderie here at Delta Dental. It’s nice to have other dentists you’re working with to review cases and get opinions. It’s just been great to work here.

We like to think we’re improving people’s lives in some way every day. How do you think your team feeds into that specifically?

From my professional background, I take a real interest in the pediatric cases that I review — especially when I’m able to make an impact on claims for children who are in pain. It’s important to me that I’m able to help them get the care they need as quickly as possible. Children shouldn’t be left waiting in pain.

It’s especially important to create positive experiences for children as these may be the first dental experiences they ever have, and they’ll remember them going forward. A child with a positive perspective on dentistry is most likely going to become an adult who cares for their oral health.

That is a great point. Other than reviewing claims, how do you keep your skills sharp?

To remain a licensed dentist, which we all are, we have to do clinical coursework every year. Also, I like to think most dentists are tinkerers — we like to do stuff with our hands to keep busy. Many dentists have hobbies that require a lot of dexterity.

Do you have any of those hobbies?

Yes, I garden and I do some woodworking in my spare time. Recently, I’ve made some Adirondack chairs out of 100-year-old barn wood.

As for my coworkers, my colleague Dr. Westee plays the bass guitar. She’s pretty cool!

Going back to children’s first experiences, what is your take on dental phobias? They seem to have saturated popular culture. What’s it like to be in a profession with such a negative perception?

With phobias, parents can actually help foster positive experiences. For instance, parents should get kids in to see the dentist early and often. You don’t wait for a high fever to take a child to the pediatrician for the first time, so why wait until kids have a toothache to go to the dentist for the first time?

Make children’s initial dental experiences good ones — a simple cleaning, some tasty fluoride, a treat afterward, whatever it is! Just don’t let it be a filling or worse.

That is a great point. Now for the fun stuff. What would your former patients be surprised to learn about you?

I really enjoy mission work. I started out in 2007 in Peru, and my brother and I started a nonprofit in 2013. I’ve also been to Ecuador, but more recently I have gone to Nicaragua with a group of doctors and dentists to provide medical and dental care.

That’s so cool. Have you noticed any differences between your clinical work in the U.S. and mission work?

Yes — a profound lack of access to care. People in Peru would walk three days to see us. One of the most profound experiences I had was witnessing people cry when numbed because it was the first time they’ve not felt pain in years. That changes your outlook on some things.

On a lighter note, patients in Peru would sometimes bring their chickens with them so they didn’t get lost or stolen. Another big cultural difference.

Speaking of a lighter note, what’s your favorite bit of dental humor?

Here’s one we heard in dental school a lot — tell patients to “only brush the teeth they want to keep!”


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