Aflac Says No to Customer Service Layoffs

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Customer Service
Customer Service

A few weeks ago we asked the question, "Is your customer service staff in jeopardy?" In this economy, many contact centers are at the center of cost-cutting strategy. However, Aflac has managed to duck both layoffs and high attrition, offering progressive recognition programs and avoiding layoffs altogether, leading to one of the insurance industry's highest employee retention rates.

For Alfac's senior vice president of claims and benefit services, Laree Daniel, a 2007 1to1 Customer Champion when she was at Assurant Health, the connection is obvious. "Very simply, Aflac is a great company to work for," she says. "As we like to say, our service center professionals are the duck [from the television commercials], and we go through great efforts to create a fun and supportive environment for them."

Aflac's 94 percent employee retention rate makes sense when you consider its policy of not laying off any employees, as well as the perks Aflac offers its service center workers. Representatives can take advantage of alternative work schedules, day care providers, mentoring programs, and opportunities to give back to their communities.

Employees in the service center also earn more than comparable positions in other areas of the company, and receive extra personal days. Especially today when the economy is putting more customers on edge, Daniel says, it's vital for employees to be happy so they take good care of customers. "It's important for our reps to understand customers' emotional states and interact accordingly," she says. "We want our customers to be relieved they have Aflac in their time of need, and we don't want our interactions to add to their frustration."

Service center employees are also encouraged to contribute suggestions to Aflac's Bright Ideas program, which recognizes workers who find ways to increase efficiency or improve customer service. Daniel says employee engagement is integral to creating effective customer engagement, which is one reason she allows blogging and instant messaging within the service center environment to appeal to Generation-Y employees. Despite all the programs and initiatives Aflac has in place, the company is fiscally sound and doesn't foresee breaking its streak of no layoffs.

"One of the reasons we haven't experienced that like other companies is because we tend to manage expense ratios tightly and we're not afraid to tackle difficult problems head on," Daniel says. "Layoffs are a convenient option for expense reduction, but before we'd consider that you can be sure we've exhausted every other possible option to reallocate resources and reduce expenses. Few companies would go through that type of effort to avoid layoffs."

And that, at the end of the day, is why Aflac enjoys such high customer service marks and such low employee attrition, Daniel says. "The number one reason we rank so highly is because our employees, and customers, know that we act with integrity."

EXPERT OPINION
EXPERT OPINION