Church Mutual service center achieves recertification

Church Mutual Insurance Company’s National Customer Service Center (NCSC) has been recertified as a Center of Excellence by BenchmarkPortal Inc. and The Center for Customer-Driven Quality founded at Purdue University.

The recertification followed a rigorous review by BenchmarkPortal. To earn the Certified Center of Excellence designation, call centers must meet objective, quantitative criteria and pass audits conducted by BenchmarkPortal researchers. A total of 22 Key Performance Indicators serve as measuring parameters for successful call center performance in customer service.

“The NCSC is an essential component of our value proposition,” Church Mutual President and CEO Mike Ravn said. “It is the front line of service to our customers and represents our company well.”

The NCSC, which employs 85 people and became fully staffed in October of 2007, continues to post impressive numbers to achieve recertification:

• It supports more than 90,000 of the company’s customers in all but six states, handling more than 530,000 calls per year.

• Its average speed of answer of 12.84 seconds is almost twice as fast as the property casualty insurance industry average (24.92 seconds).

• Resolution of problems on the first call is a staggering 99 percent, exceeding the industry average of 84.6 percent.

Only a fraction of all service centers that begin the certification process have the potential to meet the standards necessary to earn Certified Center of Excellence status. Church Mutual is one of two centers so honored in Wisconsin.

“Earning this certification definitely took an overall team effort,” Church Mutual National Customer Service Center Manager Jon Smith said. “Without the dedication of my supervisors and front-line staff, we would not have been able to maintain these high standards.”

Church Mutual is the leading insurer of religious institutions in the United States with more than 100,000 religious organizations. That figure is more than twice the number of its nearest competitor.

Church Mutual previously had more than 25 field sales offices around the country staffed by one or two people each. The idea to consolidate that service in one call center was long considered by the company, Smith noted.

In planning the call center, it was important to Church Mutual leadership that the new operation be located in Merrill.

“This could have been located anywhere in the country,” Smith said, “but that wasn’t an option.”

The decision to locate the NCSC in Merrill turned out to be the right call.

“Here we are in Merrill, Wisconsin, with this center being recognized nationally by this group,” Smith said. “That’s a testament to the quality of the people we’re able to attract in this area.”

The call center grew in four phases, beginning with 27 employees. A job fair held by Church Mutual in Merrill drew over 400 applicants, from which an additional 60 employees were hired for the call center.

Employees in the call center are licensed in property and casualty insurance. They go through five to six weeks of total training. Well-trained representatives help ensure quality service to the customer.

“Most of the larger centers are all about volumes,” Smith said. “When a customer calls our main goal is to have people available to take that call as quickly as possible. Then we will spend as much time on the phone as it takes to help the customer.”

The call center handles all servicing of existing policies. The call center is open from 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. to cover the business hours in all time zones in the country. They don’t handle claims or sell new policies, but can direct callers to the right department.

“We’re the first line of defense for just about everything,” Smith said.

The NCSC has allowed Church Mutual to further separate itself from the competition in terms of quality service, Smith said.

“The consistency of service we provide has been enhanced,” he said. “We’re at a world class level. This company has such high standards for meeting customer needs. We focus more on the quality of experience.”

A customer satisfaction survey revealed that 94% of Church Mutual customers would recommend the company to their peers.

The call center occupies 13,000 square feet in the former ITC Trucking building on County Rd. W. The area includes 79 workstations, with the capacity to expand to 98.

The NCSC has a significantly higher employee retention rate than the industry average. The greatest loss to the call center is employees who move to other positions within Church Mutual.

“We’ve had 15-20 people who have moved into other positions at the home office,” Smith noted.

For such a new call center to be recognized as a Center of Excellence is unusual, Smith said.

“To get certified in a little over two years is pretty rare,” he said. “Now the expectation is that we maintain it.”

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