I put on the headset, looked over the script one more time, took a deep breath, and then pressed the button. “Thank you for calling Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina. This is Maggie. May I have your name, please?”
I spent a few hours volunteering to answer customer calls last week, and in that short time period I made a few discoveries. One is that our Customer Service Professionals are truly amazing people who have very stressful jobs and who handle them with grace. Also, and this will seem obvious to most of you, that our members – all 3.9 million of them, are not just ID numbers.
They’re real people who are calling to make sure they have coverage for their surgery scheduled next week. And who are calling to make sure their son can fill his prescription. And who are calling because they had too much money incorrectly taken out of their account, and rent is due soon.
An Eye-Opening Experience
I only took a dozen or so calls on that afternoon I volunteered, but it was eye-opening. My first call was a member who’d been on hold since that morning. She had a grandfathered plan, but wasn’t sure of her coverage, and she needed her thyroid medication at the pharmacy. She was understandably upset and frustrated, and none of the three options that I gave her worked for her – she didn’t want a scheduled call back, she had already tried Blue Connect, and she begged me not to put her on hold again.
I flagged down one of the CSPs who were helping the volunteers, Cortney — that’s her in the top picture of this post. She has one of those voices that automatically put you at ease when she starts talking. She listened patiently to the member, and told the member she was going to put her on hold, but promised she’d be back very soon.
I observed as Cortney worked with one of her colleagues to get to the bottom of the issue, which was a bit complicated. They determined the problem, which was not connected to the recent operational issues, and it wasn’t one that could be solved right away.
I listened as Cortney explained to the member that they would be working hard to resolve the issue, but it could be a few more days. Again she made a promise to the member – she’d keep the member updated, and the member wouldn’t have to call back. I saw Cortney nod her head, smile and say, “You’re very welcome” before hanging up the call.
When I told Cortney she was awesome, she just smiled and shrugged. She said, “It just makes me feel good to be able to help someone.” Cortney worked every Saturday in January and on the MLK holiday. She told me she’d be keeping an eye on that member’s issue and would probably call her back later that afternoon or the next day, just to make sure the member knew she wasn’t forgotten.
One Big Team Working Together to Help Customers
She’s just one of the hundreds of unsung heroes taking your calls in these past few weeks. I talked to a Team Lead named Reggie about how he’s helping his team to stay positive under all the stress. He said, “It’s been busy, but we’re doing all we can to support our staff, from handing out snacks and offering words of encouragement. People have been great about pitching in. We’re really all one big team.”
When I was almost done with my volunteer shift, our VP and Chief Actuary, Patrick Getzen, sat down for the start of his. I also saw my department’s leader, Kathy Higgins, vice president of Corporate Affairs, on my way out. I left feeling proud to be a part of an organization with dedicated Customer Service Professionals like Cortney, and leaders who roll up their sleeves and pitch in, like Patrick and Kathy.
I’ve heard countless stories of BCBSNC employees going above and beyond over the past several weeks to help our members. We even have a hashtag we’re using internally to share such stories – #BeyondtheCall. Just as I know that our 3.9 million members are real people, with real lives and real problems and hopes and dreams, our 4,500 employees are too.
We’re working hard to put our customers first, and while we’ve certainly had our challenges this year, seeing us all come together is really an amazing experience.
By the way, I checked back with Cortney today, to let her know we were publishing this piece. She told me that the member she had helped during my volunteer shift was all taken care of. Cortney said, “She was very happy and grateful that she wasn’t forgotten.”