Replicant’s Innovator Spotlight Series
This series is dedicated to customer service innovators and leaders that have managed to turn their obstacles into opportunities, reinventing what it means to be a great leader and delivering exceptional customer service experiences despite today’s climate. From managing their teams through crisis, to pivoting tactics in record speed, to innovating with emerging technologies, these are the leaders transforming contacts centers in 2022.
Tom Dietrich Vice President, Contact Center Technology at Benefytt
Can you share more about your background and how you got into the customer service industry?
I started in the contact center space about 15 years ago in the direct-to-consumer insurance industry. My background was in business systems logistics, and my master’s is in Decision Information Science, which is a cross between IT and business. I started as a business analyst and worked my way into project management and operations and built an operations team, which included technology process, improvement analytics in the contact center, and developing KPIs and metrics in the contact center. My role expanded over time into the marketing, sales and the service side in addition to managing personnel. In my previous role I was the first of 15 employees and we eventually grew to 500. More recently, I started with Benefytt Technologies, overseeing all of the contact center technology, simplifying the agent experience and improving the day to day interaction with our customers.
How has the contact center changed since you first entered it?
From the technology side, a lot has changed. There’s an almost overwhelming number of tools and tech out there to assist in the contact center. Everything’s getting smarter and more efficient. The representatives are also able to have access to information so much quicker than when I originally started. While technology has made things a lot better in many ways, it comes with challenges too. With so many different technologies out there, bringing them into one place and ensuring the agent is able to use them seamlessly can be challenging. Simplifying the technology experience and integrating as best we can is something I’m very focused on.
I think AI in the contact center is only going to continue to grow. Customers are now more comfortable speaking to a machine and interacting with technology.
What are the biggest challenges facing contact center leaders today?
Right now it’s finding and hiring enough agents. We’re looking to grow quickly which means we need to hire agents quickly, and that’s not easy. Getting agents trained and up to speed fast is a challenge, especially in the Medicare space. There is a lot of compliance that comes with it. It requires training and knowledge on products and benefits, and it takes time to learn those things. The speed at which you can hire someone, retain that employee, and ensure they’re happy and motivated to continue to bring value to the organization is the first step. Then, you need to work to make the agent proficient enough to be comfortable selling or servicing the product. A lot goes into those processes to get it right, so I see that being a challenge for a lot of contact centers today.
What trends are you seeing today that you think will have a big impact on contact centers in the future?
Going back to technology, I think AI in the contact center is only going to continue to grow. Customers are now more comfortable speaking to a machine and interacting with technology. We’re going to continue leveraging AI as an aid to bring answers and knowledge to the agent in real time. One thing we’re already doing that I see continuing to have an impact going forward, is using technology for repetitive tasks and creating unique customer experiences. For example, we can get more qualified buyers to our sales agents by using scoring where we can match the best customer to the right agent at the right time, and use AI to provide product recommendations that best suit the needs of the customer. I think overall AI is going to help us create the best kind of customer experiences. It’s pretty incredible.
What are some of the ways you are driving change and innovation within your business?
I’ve always had a focus on process improvement on a daily basis with the belief that small tweaks lead to large change over time. Whether it’s through evaluating the full business process, evaluating how the different departments interrelate and interact, or reviewing the customer experience from end to end and the different touchpoints with our representatives, technology and brand. I’ve also largely been able to innovate applying technology to these business processes where needed.
What advice would you give to someone just starting out in contact center operations?
I would say there are three things to really focus on. The first would be to stay open minded. There are a lot of different tools, people and resources in this industry and there is so much to learn from all of them, but you’ve got to be open to new things for that to happen. My next piece of advice would be to always start with the customer and think of their experience and what it’s like for them on the other end of things. And lastly, aim to improve 1% everyday. Small changes add up to large gains over time.
Check out our previous spotlight and discover more Customer Service Innovators with Replicant’s 50 Leaders Transforming Contact Centers.