Nicholas Benoit is no stranger to the insurance industry. With over a decade of overseeing commercial insurance divisions — even winning an esteemed Service Ambassador Award — he found his home at Royal Arcanum in 2012. Now the Chief Operations Officer of the nonprofit-based insurance company, Nick is in a unique position to ensure that the company not only remains committed to the community but that it adopts new and improved ways to facilitate that connection. Enter the cielo Contact Center, an integral component of Royal Arcanum’s customer engagement that allows for a more effective experience between the company’s customers and employees, and helps to continue its legacy of supporting and protecting families.
Can you tell us about your journey in life insurance and explain the scope of your job?
I'm the COO of Royal Arcanum insurance; we're a fraternal life insurance company, and we sell life insurance products and fixed annuity products. I’ve been with Royal Arcanum for about 10 years, and my background has mainly been in the operations side of things along with the compliance and regulatory sides. It’s a unique background based on being with such a large commercial insurance company and then transitioning to a fraternal life insurance carrier. I’m responsible for every aspect of life insurance operations that we have here — from sales and underwriting to the regulatory aspect. It’s nice that I get to be hands-on with a lot of that. I work with a great team every day!
How does Royal Arcanum differ from other types of life insurance agencies, and what is fraternal insurance relative to commercial insurance?
We’re a nonprofit, so all the profits we make go back into the community. I call us a “community insurer.” When you have a large commercial carrier, any profit that’s made goes to stockholders or whatnot. A lot of the decisions made are based on maximizing stock prices. You buy life insurance to protect your family, right? But when you're buying with a fraternal insurer, you’re also benefiting the community. We have college scholarship programs and a lot of different community events throughout North America. When Hurricane Katrina hit, we made a large contribution to the area. When Hurricane Sandy hit New Jersey, we donated to help build funds for the community. [We also work] with local events, such as the Jimmy Fund here in Boston — whether it's an employee from our office that's joining a walk or a contribution to the fund in general. So, buying life insurance from a fraternal insurer is a win-win — you’re buying life insurance to protect your family, but why not protect your family and help others at the same time?
What inspired you to go into fraternal insurance?
I love helping out the community; it’s something I've always been involved in. With Royal Arcanum, I can make a direct impact and difference on a day-to-day basis. Being with [a major commercial company] was a great experience, but if I wanted to make a change, it took four to six weeks to make that change happen — there are so many different levels that need approval.
What are the benefits now that Royal Arcanum has adopted the cielo system?
It has been a huge benefit for me in overseeing our insurance operations, and it’s an enhancement from a reporting aspect. On the customer service side, I know how many calls are being answered, so I can see that one person is answering 50 calls a day versus another who is answering 13. It ensures that everyone is doing their jobs.
And it’s very easy to use! The reporting is sent to me automatically each day, so I know if phone volumes are higher during a certain period of time. Then I can look at adjusting schedules for staff. I can see individual performance along with overall call volumes. We don't have a huge staff, so are we staffed appropriately at this particular time, or do we need to make adjustments?
Rumor has it you were with cielo previously, then left for a bit to try a different company. You ended up returning to cielo. Can you tell us about that?
To be 100% honest, it was a mistake on my part to leave in the first place. The system worked great in terms of clarity, and the service was great. The one issue was that it didn't, at that time, have any reporting capabilities. From a performance basis, I couldn’t tell exactly who was answering how many calls, if we were staffed appropriately, or how many missed calls we had within a certain timeframe. Without having the data, I couldn’t decipher that.
“Everything I do is based on partnerships and relationships, and it was a no-brainer for me to go back to [cielo] to inquire if they had a new structure with reporting capabilities. When I heard they did, it was a home run.”
So when I left, I went to a company that had all of the capabilities from a reporting standpoint. Without naming names, it was the biggest disaster! Every aspect of their service was lacking. I gave them about a year to hammer out and fix the issues. After that, I went back and said, “Okay, I made a mistake. Do you have anything new that will get me what I need from a reporting standpoint with the same great quality and great customer service you offered me previously?”
They welcomed me back with open arms. The previous experience I had with them was so great that I immediately went back to them and didn't even need to look around. I trusted them. Everything I do is based on partnerships and relationships, and it was a no-brainer for me to go back to them to inquire if they had a new structure with reporting capabilities. When I heard they did, it was a home run. The experience has been great since.
How has partnering with cielo helped streamline day-to-day operations?
It’s huge! The customer service has been phenomenal. If we’ve needed to make adjustments to the phone schedule, such as having the associates record a message before a holiday weekend, the previous company said, “Okay, here's how you can do it yourself. Everything was self-service. Since I was technically the administrator, I’d sit there and have to decipher it. What is an account representative for if every single time you make a request, you have to do it yourself? This is so much more efficient. Now, reports are automatically sent to me, and the cielo staff showed me exactly how to set up automated reports if I want to create something myself. If I need help, they’ll even set it up for me.
“Policyholders are certainly more apt to have their calls answered Instead of needing to leave a voicemail or being stuck on hold. Everyone has had the experience of calling someplace and hearing, “Your estimated hold time is 30 to 45 minutes.” It’s frustrating!”
It sounds like the customer experience that you enjoy with cielo directly helps the customer experience for your policyholders.
Absolutely! Because I get the reports automatically generated to me, I can ensure (based on the data I see) whether or not we need more staff in a certain timeframe to minimize any kind of call waiting time for our customers and policyholders. Instead of having dropped calls, I can make adjustments to the phone schedule very seamlessly. Policyholders are certainly more apt to have their calls answered instead of needing to leave a voicemail or being stuck on hold. Everyone has had the experience of calling someplace and hearing, “Your estimated hold time is 30 to 45 minutes.” It’s frustrating!
Do you and your agents have a favorite contact center feature?
I wouldn't say there's one particular feature, because everyone's a little bit different. For some, it’s the contact center. For others, it’s the ease of the phones. If associates need to forward a call or transfer a voicemail, it’s great because they get it within their email.
What was the learning curve when you adopted the contact center? Was it pretty easy to integrate?
As with anything new, you need to learn the system. But the great thing is we had on-site staff [from cielo] that came by about three separate times to ensure the customer experience was excellent and that our associates in the office felt comfortable with it. It wasn't a situation where they sent somebody to the office for an hour, and if you didn’t have your questions answered then tough luck, you're on your own. They were very welcoming and said, “We're going to be here today, but we're also going to come back next week in case you have questions that pop up. I think that helped with the transition of understanding which features are available and how to use them.