NICE Interactions '19 - How MAPFRE is using NICE to change call center performance management

Profile picture for user jreed By Jon Reed April 18, 2019
Performance management is a topic that makes me wary. KPIs can dampen employee morale. But at NICE Interactions 2019, MAPFRE's Jeremy McKechnie told me a radically different story. He also weighed in on Predictive Behavioral Routing.

Jeremy McKechnie of MAPFRE at NICE '19

Diginomica readers would expect me to write a few cynical barbs if I was face to face with an insurance giant like MAPFRE.

But here's what Jeremy McKechnie of MAPFRE Insurance didn't know before we sat down: I've recently had a shockingly good experience with Mapfre, my insurer for a ridiculous complicated auto accident claim.

Given our interview topic was Mapfre's call center and customer service, we were already off to a good start. But I'm wary of extrapolating my experience into a universal. So at NICE Interactions 2019, I had the chance to hear more about what Mapfre is doing to change their call center experience.

Even better: I could ask someone in the field for their views on Predictive Behavioral Routing, a hot button topic in my show review piece (NICE Interactions '19 review - MoneyGram's call center cloud transformation sets the tone).

As Manager of ECC Workforce Management with Mapfre, McKechnie is right in the middle of the call center evolution. His responsibility extends to Mapfre's U.S. call centers, so the NICE story here applies to their U.S. operations. Mapfre Insurance is part of the international Mapfre Group, which is an international insurer with business in 47 countries on five continents.

McKechnie helps lead up workforce management, performance management, and process improvement for Mapfre's call center employees. McKechnie told me his challenge is to balance the goal of providing good customer experiences with efficiency. The underlying goal? "To be the most trusted global insurance company." That's a bold statement. How do you do accomplish it? McKechnie:

We try to do that by providing exceptional service, and with NICE's help, being able to meet the customer on their terms - and through the channel that they're preferring.

Flipping the performance management script

Then McKechnie told me something truly surprising. Instead of using performance management to hone in on employee flaws and correct them with managers, Mapfre has flipped the script:

Our goal over the last year is to really focus on what our staff is doing right. A lot of times coaching and performance management is: "Here's what you need to work on to improve." It's not necessarily negative, but it definitely has a "you need to do better" kind of tone to it.

Amen. But what's the alternative?

What we try to do is focus on what everybody's doing right. We spend very little time on what they need to improve on.

And how is that going?

What we've found is when we focus on the good things people are doing, and kind of recognizing that and giving it a pat on the back, a lot off the staff are self-correcting the stuff that we would bring up.

And how are employees responding?

They want to do better. They're more engaged. We've seen our good-place-to-work scores, all that kind of stuff, improve as we've focused more on, "Hey, you did a great job", versus, "Here's how you can do a better job". And that's what we've been over the last year.

But it's not about a generic "great job." It's about giving employees props for specific areas where they are excelling. McKechnie's team gets that through NICE Performance Management (NPM). Mapfre already had a relationship with NICE, so when it came time to re-evaluate performance management, turning to NICE made sense. McKechnie's team took NPM officially live in the beginning of 2019, following soft rollouts in 2018. They've already seen big improvements:

We've seen things like adherence and all the things that you can measure from a KPI perspective increase dramatically. We kind of tagged it 100 percent positive when we rolled it out. And we've seen performance improvement without having to have those performance improvement conversations.

They've been able to turn employees' attitudes about coaching around:

The thing we found that people didn't like about coaching was: "The supervisor is telling me what I need to do better and I feel kind of down about. I'm not happy about being told what I'm not doing right."

That's changed:

Now all of a sudden, people are more excited about coaching. They look forward to that, because it is a very different experience than it was.

McKechnie acknowledged that Mapfre was taking a risk here:

I think a lot of organizations would say that it's risky to not focus on the stuff you need to improve on, because one of the fears is, "If you're not talking about it, how is it going get better?"

But we've found that you don't need to let people know. If you lay out "Here's what's important to us as an organization, these are the things that mean success for us," and you focus on what aspects of those they're doing well, they're gonna try to do those other things, maybe where they aren't as strong, and they're going to try to improve. Or they're going to ask the question, like "How can I get better at X?"

McKechnie says the coaching sessions usually focus on one or two things. One focus? Specific KPIs like adherence, quality, or survey results. Mapfre sees this as a big chance to help other teams:

If someone is doing really well with their survey scores, the supervisor or manager is going to have a conversation to understand. "What are you doing differently? What can we maybe copy and share with other team members? You seem to really excel at this, let's leverage that."

In other sessions, the manager/coach will hone in on one situation NPM says the rep handled really well, such as an exceptional call de-escalation, or a post-call survey that showed above-and-beyond.

I was surprised to hear these changes are happening, given it's just four months from go-live.

Within the first month or two we saw dramatic changes in one, the sentiment of what people view as coaching. And also the actual performance of the contact center itself. It really was remarkable.

And yes, they quantified this:

We measured what our KPIs were in the November/December timeframe at the end of last year, and then compared February's results. It was already seeing a return on investment from what we invested into the platform.

The wrap - KPIs the right way, and views on PBR

I'm really worried about the impact of KPI culture. I worry that companies are measuring the wrong things, turning those measurements into punitive or creativity-stifling cultures that encourage perfunctory, by-the-book task completion. Mapfre's story points to a much more inspiring scenario: tracking the things that matter, recognizing those who excel, and building a mentoring culture.

As for PBR, I couldn't resist asking McKechnie for his take on what we heard in the NICE Interactions keynote. McKechnie told me:

I first started hearing about PBR last year... If a company can do that right, I think at this point it kind of sets you apart. While it's invisible to the customer - they don't know that that's happening - all of a sudden their experiences are exponentially more positive than they were.

But there is a learning curve:

I think what a lot of companies will need to do though is, because it is kind of this new mysterious thing, is to figure out, how do you actually do that, right?

It is a new concept to wrap your head around:

I know last year when I came back from NICE and was kind of telling people about this personality based call routing, I was definitely getting looks like it was a little science fiction.

But people were also kind of excited because it was this new way of doing things... If they can match me with somebody that is going to get me, then I'm all for that as a customer. And so we should probably try to do that as a company too.

PBR still has a lot to prove. But with Macy's on stage speaking to its benefits, it's definitely not science fiction. And with that, I'm (temporarily) running out of things to be skeptical about. Don't worry - I'm sure I'll have a fresh list for tomorrow.