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The COVID-19 pandemic has tested the customer service industry, with those in healthcare services feeling immense pressure to meet patients’ every day and urgent needs while keeping their representatives safe, healthy and engaged. But Lourdes Nevarez, Director of Workforce Strategy at Presbyterian Healthcare Services (PHS), was equipped to face these challenges head on. With 20 years’ experience in contact centers, she prides herself on making data-driven decisions that successfully lead contact center reps on journeys that improve patient and member experiences and deliver services with empathy.
I recently spoke with Lourdes to learn how the organization uses Genesys Workforce Engagement Management capabilities to boost employee performance and drive growth.
What is your current role at Presbyterian Healthcare Services?
Lourdes Nevarez: I’m the Director of Workforce Strategy at Presbyterian Healthcare Services, an integrated healthcare system. Integration at Presbyterian extends to our Presbyterian Customer Service Center, known as the PCSC. This unique contact center works with leaders across the entire Presbyterian system to be the voice and direct connection to more than 3 million calls each year.
I oversee workforce management functions, such as forecasting, scheduling and real-time management for our contact center and other operational areas. Additionally, I manage budget performance for the contact center and partner with leaders across our company to maximize the use of resources.
Can you tell me about your current customer experience and contact center setup?
Nevarez: Presbyterian is located in New Mexico with approximately 850 Genesys licenses. Prior to the pandemic, approximately 88% of our staff worked out of our main offices in Albuquerque, NM. Since March of 2020, we’ve shifted to nearly all contact center staff working from home with only a few exceptions.
What does customer experience (CX) mean to you?
Nevarez: A customer’s experience is the sum of all interactions — positive and negative — that a customer encounters both directly and indirectly, over time. I believe we each have a role in the successes of those experiences, regardless of our core functional area. The decisions we make around the people we hire, the processes we develop, and the technology we invest in all play critical roles in how a customer’s interaction goes.
Presbyterian Healthcare Services exists to improve the health of the patients, members and communities we serve. Our customers are our neighbors, and we take our commitment to our state very seriously knowing that we have the privilege of serving one in three New Mexicans with healthcare or coverage. We can’t achieve that mission if we don’t all work collectively, leveraging our individual expertise, to continue improving every customer interaction.
What challenges did COVID-19 pose to your customer service and contact centers? How did you solve them?
Nevarez: The primary challenge in the early days of COVID-19 was shifting how we worked. Like many contact centers, we had to quickly figure out a way to safely continue the critical work our teams did on behalf of our patients, members and providers. We had to care for our community but do it in a way that didn’t put our own employees at risk.
Our approach was to send people to work from home, temporarily. In those early days, many left behind their personalized workstations thinking they would return within a few days or even weeks. As the days extended into months a new reality began to emerge — one we couldn’t have pictured before. We found new ways to share in the small victories and joys while the unknowns of COVID-19 remained. It hasn’t and isn’t always easy, but our teams have shown incredible strength, passion and resilience.
How did COVID-19 affect your employee experience? How are you managing the challenges of a fully remote or a hybrid workforce?
Nevarez: When COVID-19 impacted New Mexico with its first case on March 11, 2020, PHS made the decision to have all non-frontline employees work from home. This impacted all 800 agents who answer about 80% of the calls into our organization. After shifting our contact center to an at home model in response the COVID-19 pandemic, we opted to keep our contact center primarily at home long-term.
A fully remote workforce has its own challenges, but we have found new creative ways to stay connected with our employees. A challenge that remains for many of us is missing the ability to connect face-to-face. Video is great, but there is something incredibly special about ordinary things we never gave a second thought to. For me, personally, a few things I miss are the hot air balloons outside our windows; the impromptu team meetings at our onsite coffee shop; and the chatter of the halls filled with our employees. We haven’t found a way to recreate that — yet.
What solutions are you using to manage your workforce and why?
Nevarez: Genesys Workforce Engagement Management has allowed us to leverage Genesys Decisions and forecasting to create better short- and long-term plans for success. Through enablement of Genesys forecasting, complemented by forecasting best practices, we have an ongoing plan that uses historical volumes and performance to create better outcomes. This has also allowed us to create better hiring and scheduling plans that meet demands, resulting in a significant reduction in the total abandoned calls in our organization. Our health plan has seen a 20% reduction, and our patient services team has achieved a 65% reduction in total abandons.
Genesys Workforce Engagement Management has also allowed us to create better flexibility for our Customer Service Representatives. Before fully implementing the technology and processes, we spent so much of our time just trying to react to the current time conditions. Over the past four years, we’ve worked closely with Genesys, our implementation partner Pointel and our internal Workforce Management team to leverage the Genesys environment to improve operational productivity. Today, we have more flexibility in hiring part-time staff, increased time-off limits and options, and flexible work options.
How has this affected employee retention, productivity and development?
Nevarez: We’ve had a significant improvement in overall agent productivity by leveraging economies of scale, standardization of work, and leveraging the Genesys routing and skilling strategies. Over the past five years, we’ve seen agent utilization improvements of 33-40%.
How have your employees provided exceptional customer service in the last year?
Nevarez: I’m pleased to say there are many Presbyterian employees who provide amazing service and go out of their way to help customers. But Marcia Birmingham is among the top of my list.
I was fortunate enough to work with Marcia, IT Manager for Telephony Applications, for four years before she retired. Marcia would send letters of gratitude to a customer who helped us find issues in our technology. Her customers were not just the patients, member or providers, but also the employees. She took time to meet new people and buy them lunch to welcome them to Presbyterian. She embodies service, thoughtfulness and a passion for the Presbyterian mission.
I met Marcia in a brief one-hour interview, and I left knowing that if the IT Manager was that enthusiastic and aware of how her team’s work impacted customers, I was at the right company. Marcia continues to serve our community and I’m sure she’s still our biggest fan.
To learn more about Presbyterian Healthcare Services, check out the case study.
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