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How two brands scaled their service operations to survive the pandemic pressures


We examine how Aegon and The Co-op Group have adapted and scaled their service operations in recent months. 

27th Aug 2020
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At Salesforce Live, we spoke with trailblazers from Aegon and The Co-op Group to learn how they’ve adapted and scaled their service operations in recent months. 

You can watch the sessions on demand or read on for a taste of the discussions. First up, Aegon.

Meet the Experts: Aegon

Multinational life insurance, pensions and asset management company Aegon saw demand for their service centre spike dramatically during the pandemic. In response, they pivoted their service model fast – launching a web chat in just five days.

We spoke with Michael Lambert, Analytics Manager at Aegon and Dave Thomson and Rob Ballantyne from Salesforce about how businesses can adapt and stay resilient. 

The discussion covered three effective ways to scale up a service operation:

1. Scale your service through agent experience

First of all, says Michael, it pays to remember that the agent experience drives the customer experience. So that’s really where the work of delivering great service begins.

Dashboards are a quick win here. In Aegon’s case, their agents build dashboardscreate reports, and extract insights to support projects and decisions - all the way to board level. This helps them easily see their daily performance metrics: satisfaction metrics, response times and resolution rates, for example. They can also track outstanding tasks and requests, so they can hit the ground running every morning. Within the console, agents can also mark themselves as ‘available’ or ‘unavailable’ for different omnichannel interactions – calls, chats, SMS, or a mixture of several.

Agents can accept incoming calls, already equipped with customer details on-screen – because the system recognises the customer’s number in the queue. Certain types of customer enquiries are on the rise during lockdown – for example, people who are worried about their pension or who need a holiday from mortgage payments.

To deal with these common requests faster, the platform prompts agents to run a macro – a shortcut for a set of repeatable actions within the platform. The customer’s case is then updated and processed through the system seamlessly. A next-best action may also be suggested by the intelligent system, with the help of Einstein.

2. Scale your service through digital channels

When the COVID-19 crisis hit, service teams across the board found themselves with limited access to critical technologies they need to communicate with customers.

Digital channels were the obvious ones to scale up – the most high-priority one being web chat. So Aegon introduced a new web chat facility to provide support to thousands of customers and financial advisers during COVID-19. They used Service Cloud to design, test and launch their web chat. Agents now handle 200 web chats a day to service their 400,000 customer base.

While Marketing Cloud and Einstein Analytics let the customer analytics team target demographics with the right messages at the right time. Aegon’s agents have also learned how to integrate and manage the web chat functionality with Trailhead. And Chatter allows the sales team to host around 200 online customer chats a day – even though telephone support has resumed.

3. Scale your service through your mobile end points 

Finally, we talked about mobile devices – not just in the context of customer experience but also for field staff. It’s vital that service agents in the field have the same digital experience, and the same access to customer case data that they would back at their desks, so they can deliver a consistent level of service.

Smart scheduling is another key consideration – especially as service visits resume, and the onus is on organisations to run efficient, safe operations. Aegon achieve that by consistently sending the best-placed and best-qualified field agents to visit customers – with the Salesforce Lightning Scheduler helping them match the right skills to the right job. It also helps them improve first-time fix rates and minimise staff travel and exposure.

How The Co-op Group managed to adapt, scale and grow

Trailblazers The Co-op Group employ 63,000 people providing all kinds of services to the community – from food and healthcare to legal services and funerals.

Naturally, continuity of care has always been a major priority. But maintaining that continuity in a COVID-19 world hasn’t been easy.

Claire Carroll, head of sales and service at The Co-op Group, talked us through how the company has managed to overcome chaos and keep up standards of care over the past few months. In her five years of service, Claire has worked to bring together the different contact centres that support customers, members and colleagues. (Previously, these service centres sat within separate business units – from Manchester to Johannesburg.)

Today, these global teams are united in one central unit, unlocking economies of scale for the group and sharing expertise so that together they can deliver service with empathy, effectiveness and efficiency.

Responding to the crisis

Claire told us things have changed dramatically in recent weeks. Because of the work they do, the Group’s sales and service teams are considered key workers – so keeping them safe is paramount. That means doing all they can on the ground: social distancing, deep cleaning, PPE and home working wherever possible, with all the necessary tech.

Hiring and training have also underpinned the Group’s plan to scale service. To deal with a surge in queries about product restrictions and COVID-19-related issues, the resourcing teams hired 5,000 temps to scale up the food business in just one week.

In the funeral business, it’s a similar story – with 70 additional advisors trained up to deal with an influx of queries. And an additional 500 people were brought in to make sure that families could say their best goodbye to their loved one.

Salesforce has helped in other areas like the marketing team, where social media queries and other customer interactions have required extra resources.

In fact, the Co-op Salesforce team developed a number of processes, builders and flows. First, they developed auto responses, giving customers all the detail they needed about what the Co-op was doing during the COVID-19 pandemic. This removed the need for the Co-op’s teams to respond individually to thousands of queries, meaning they could prioritise vulnerable customers instead. They also moved to a new telephony cloud platform, which helped them secure more reliable (and cost-efficient) communications.

Maintaining care in the community

The Group’s vision of cooperating for a fairer world has never been more relevant than today, Claire says. Initiatives like the vulnerable customer program – which brought 5,000 volunteers together in service – have proven it.

The Group has launched a number of funds for its members, and pupils at Co-op Academies have received free meals in what has become a national program.

Scaling in times of crisis

The strong message from Claire and her colleagues at the Co-op Group is that even in extremely challenging times, if you can adapt quickly, you can continue serving those who need support.

Claire’s teams have managed that by standing up new lines of business under extremely tight deadlines and working together to deliver those much-need services in efficient, effective, empathetic ways. 

See the full stories

To get the full stories of Aegon and the Co-op, check out the on-demand videos. You’ll learn more about how these trailblazers reacted to the pandemic and scaled their service operations to meet huge demand for customer service.



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