Fo­cused on the Cus­tomer

Digital Insurance - - COVER STORY - By Danni San­tana

From tap­ing up foot­ball play­ers to solv­ing in­sur­ance cus­tomers’ in­quiries, Carrie San­tonas­taso has al­ways been ready to lend a hand. The for­mer high school and col­lege ath­letic trainer en­tered the in­sur­ance world as a part-time le clerk in 1998 for MGA Gilling­ham & As­so­ciates, be­fore mov­ing on to un­der­write gun, boat and horse cov­er­age for the com­pany.

To­day, San­tonas­taso serves as of cus­tomer ser­vice at Philadel­phia In­sur­ance Com­pa­nies (PHLY), where her days treat­ing ath­letes’ aches and pains have trans­lated into valu­able ex­pe­ri­ences as she leads her own team of in­sur­ance pro­fes­sion­als.

“A lot of the skills I honed then make me a good leader to­day be­cause I am able to re­solve is­sues and bet­ter watch out for things,” the 18-year in­dus­try vet­eran says of her shift in fo­cus from sports medicine to in­sur­ance.

San­tonas­taso over­sees PHLY’s mul­ti­chan­nel con­tact cen­ter, ac­counts re­ceiv­able and pre­mium pro­cess­ing—among other re­spon­si­bil­i­ties—at a time when car­ri­ers face grow­ing pres­sure to pro­vide real-time ser­vices to cus­tomers, sim­i­lar to bank­ing and re­tail. As such, 2016 marks the rst year at PHLY where chat and email in­ter­ac­tion with cus­tomers has in­creased while tra­di­tional tele­phone com­mu­ni­ca­tion has de­clined, she said.

“Tech­nolo y is fab­u­lous, but only if it is en­hanc­ing re­la­tion­ships with cus­tomers,” she added, ar­gu­ing that tech­nolo y and au­toma­tion ex­ist mainly to em­power em­ploy­ees.

San­tonas­taso is ex­cited by a num­ber of tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vance­ments in cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence; mainly agent por­tals and per­son­al­ized in­com­ing ser­vice re­quests. The emerg­ing tech pri­or­i­tizes tasks for front-line em­ploy­ees and pro­vides sup­port­ing back­ground in­for­ma­tion about a prob­lem be­fore speak­ing with a pol­i­cy­holder.

Upon her ar­rival to the com­pany in the late 1990s, San­tonas­taso set per­sonal ob­jec­tives around three cen­tral ideas: em­ployee en­gage­ment and ad­vo­cacy, ad­ding value to the com­pany—both topand bot­tom-line—and tak­ing nec­es­sary risks to im­prove cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence. San­tonas­taso cre­ated PHLY’s Voice of the Cus­tomer sur­vey pro­gram in 2011. The con­sumer feed­back pro­gram is now a core piece of how the in­surer mea­sures suc­cess, ac­cord­ing to the com­pany. She’s also grown PHLY’s un­der­writ­ing prod­ucts from four to 10 dur­ing her ten­ure.

Cur­rently, San­tonas­taso is re­vamp­ing the or­ga­ni­za­tional struc­ture of her unit to en­sure re­spon­sive­ness across all teams is con­sis­tent, she said. Her team is also work­ing to pro­vide elec­tronic sig­na­tures to cus­tomers, for bet­ter con­ve­nience.

“My MGA back­ground gives me ver­sa­til­ity and makes me uniquely quali ed to tackle un­der­writ­ing and IT sys­tem concerns,” said San­tonas­taso. “MGAs op­er­ate as mini in­sur­ance car­ri­ers. At a big car­rier, hu­man re­sources and other departments are sep­a­rate. In an MGA dynamic, it’s not so siloed.”

PHLY is in the midst of a po­ten­tial decade-long project to re­place all its le­gacy sys­tems called SPIRE. The goal is to more eas­ily in­te­grate rat­ing, pol­icy is­suance and billing, San­tonas­taso, who is a mem­ber of the project’s steer­ing com­mit­tee, says. She also leads the cre­ation of PHLY’s new billing sys­tem, sched­uled to roll out at the end of the year.

SPIRE be­gan in 2014 and will take an es­ti­mated six to 10 years to com­plete, ac­cord­ing to the in­surer.

San­tonas­taso also cre­ated PHLY’s

High Po­ten­tial Em­ployee Pro­gram within its cus­tomer ser­vice de­part­ment in

2014. The ini­tia­tive pre­pares em­ploy­ees for fu­ture lead­er­ship roles through a cur­ricu­lum she preps. More than 25% of par­tic­i­pants have re­ceived pro­mo­tions dur­ing their time in the pro­gram.

“We wanted to ll in gaps in per­for­mance and o er more than just the tech­ni­cal ex­pe­ri­ence em­ploy­ees were gain­ing on the oor” with the pro­gram, she says.

Carrie San­tonas­taso, Vice Pres­i­dent, Cus­tomer Ser­vice, Philadel­phia In­sur­ance Com­pa­nies

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