Have we reached the end of the call center? Not according to Mindy Lamb at Cigna. That being said, personalization is key to keeping clients and it doesn’t happen overnight. In this interview, I sit down with Mindy Lamb at Cigna to chat about how personalization, customer-centricity and experience can lead to customer retention, thereby leading to long and fruitful relationships.
Most of us are well aware that retaining customers is more fruitful than forging new relationships. Will you tell us about the customer lifetime value at Cigna? How has developing long-term relationships provided better value for customer and company alike?
Customer lifetime value is an ongoing concept that Cigna and many other companies are starting to use. It’s not the only metric we use, but it’s developing and ongoing as we figure out how to leverage it better. If you think about customer lifetime value only, it really is a predictor of an individual customer’s profitability over time. So when you combine the power of that information with personal segmentation of your customers around what they need and what they value and then you understand those customers that have higher profitability projection for your company over the course of their lifetime it allows you to prioritize bringing those capabilities, products and services that individual segments of customers value the most. You’ll see higher retention where you prioritize and spend your money and investment dollars to drive that retention. Of course we benefit because their with us and they benefit because the longer they’re with us the deeper our insights grow into what they need and value so we can continue to deliver on it.
Customer centricity has been redefined in today’s new digital paradigm from a B2B and B2C perspective. Are you now more enabled to use metrics to determine the value of your relationship with your customers?
It’s been around for a long time. For a long time we’ve heard web to call, what’s the call rate, etc., and that’s real. If they’re going to the web to try to achieve their services and they can’t and they have to call, then we’re aware that their satisfaction scores go down. That’s one way you can look at it. But beyond that in this digital age of social media and multitudes of apps; we at Cigna try to meet the customers where they are in order to determine if they have a particular need or a interest. From there we can personalize that information within the digital space and watch to see if they react to that digital channel. We can measure what they find interesting, what they don’t and how to reach them in the way they want to be reached.
There will always be a need for a contact center, but more and more in the Internet age, people like the advantage of going to digital technology to find solutions to what they’re looking for.
How have you aimed to ‘retrain the brains’ of agents to find new means of customer acquisition?
It starts first with technology. Once you understand your individual customer segments, what they value and what they need, then you start to understand the additional acquisition opportunities in the product that you have for that customer to find value in. The technology enables the agent to then take a client in an inbound channel and then segue into a conversation that centers around them. They can say, “I know this about you, and based on that we also have X, Y or Z, would you be interested in hearing more?” It’s really about placing the information in the agent’s hands so they know what to pass along to the customer to continue the conversations.
Not all businesses have robust budgets. How can these agents create a customer experience that is five-star without all the trimmings?
Particularly as it relates to the agents and what they can deliver – if you don’t have the budget and technology is a challenge for all of us – it’s important to remember that at the root of it is people serving people. The best thing you can do in that regard is focus on your hiring and retention of your employees and hire for the right capabilities. You can train individuals to be computer saavy, but what you can’t train so much, and what you’re really born with, is what I call the “servant’s heart.” You either have it or you don’t. You can hone people’s skills around being personal or empathetic, but that person’s never going to be successful at really getting to the heart of customer-centricity and helping customers if they don’t have that baseline nature.
The best thing to focus on when you don’t have the five-star budget and all the wizardry that comes with it is to first start with the right people and then make sure that you incent and reward them right. Give them the power to satisfy the customer within the constraints of whatever the product or service is that you’re delivering. What you may consider as a small ability to make things right or give something back to the customer is in reality the opportunity to create both a great branding image and empowerment for our employees to know that they’re making differences every day. So hire right for the personal touch, for empathy, for people who can proactively think of creative solutions for customers and then empower them to do so.
“Writers don’t write to get published.
They write for another reason.
This is the first and only lesson every writer must learn.
Real writers don’t write for recognition.
They don’t do it for fame, accolades, or notoriety.
They do it because they cannot not write.”
It’s true, I can’t not write. Read the entire piece from Jeff Goins.
Imagine being able to rebuild damaged heart tissue using engineered cells. In this interview, Dr. Adam Feinberg, Professor and Biomedical Engineer at Carnegie Mellon University discusses the biomaterial developments he and his team are currently devising, including “developmentally-inspired” tissue engineering scaffolds.
Could you share with us the biomaterial developments you will look into thanks to funding from the National Institutes of Health Director’s New Innovator Award?
We are developing technologies that mimic the way cells build materials. Collagen is a main biomaterial of the human body that cells assemble into a highly organized, 3-D scaffold, but it has proven difficult to recapitulate this complicated hierarchical architecture using manmade methods. The surface-imitated assembly (SIA) technique we have created enables us to build collagen and other extracellular matrix (ECM) protein fibers on a surface, analogous to the way cells build these same protein fibers on their cell membranes. We are applying this technology in cardiac and ophthalmic tissue engineering applications.
Your expertise is in engineering muscle tissue to repair the heart. Could you describe the heart-tissue regeneration process you’re developing that is inspired by the growing human embryo?
The human heart cannot regenerate after a heart attack (myocardial infarction) because the muscle cells (cardiomyocytes) cannot divide in order to generate new cells to repair the damage. However, we can get new human cardiomyocytes from pluripotent stem cells. The problem is that these neo-cardiomyocytes are embryonic in their behavior and are equivalent to cardiomyocytes from early stages of embryonic development. Thus, we are building tissue engineering scaffolds that are inspired by the structure and composition of the human heart during early development in order to provide an environment that will improve the ability of these neo-cardiomyocytes to form functional heart tissue. We call this using “developmentally-inspired” tissue engineering scaffolds. At first we plan to engineer human heart muscle tissue that can be used in vitro for drug discovery and drug toxicity applications. Longer term we hope to engineer heart muscle regeneration approaches that will be used in vivo to repair heart damage.
Would you touch on the repair kit you’re working on that will repair heart injury and disease?
We are not building a repair kit, but are developing nascent repair strategies. For example, our work in 3-D bioprinting combines the advances we have made using SIA to engineer developmentally-inspired tissue scaffolds with the 3-D printing of larger collagen based scaffolds. This is the approach we are using to engineer cardiac tissue large enough to repair large muscle tissue deficits.
Although the heart is your specialty, could your developments and techniques be implemented in other areas of the body?
The developments we are making in cardiac are also being applied to other areas. One area is skeletal muscle tissue engineering, which has many similarities to cardiac muscle. Here we are using human skeletal muscle precursor cells and differentiating them into functional skeletal muscle for in vitro and in vivo applications. A second area in which we are applying these technologies is in ophthalmic tissue engineering. Here we are bioengineering a corneal endothelium, which we hope will be used to repair diseased corneas in human patients as a viable option instead of a cornea transplant.
We all fall short, including me (however rarely). This morning a friend sent me a link to some of the most misused phrases and I was so excited about it that I couldn’t wait until Friday to send! Please note the first phrase – it’s one of my biggest pet peeves.
I Couldn’t Care Less, (could NOT care less)
“I couldn’t care less” is what you would say to express maximum apathy toward a situation. Basically you’re saying, “It’s impossible for me to care less about this because I have no more care to give. I’ve run out of care.” Using the incorrect “I could care less” indicates that “I still have care left to give—would you like some?”
The actual phrase is “first-come, first-served,” to indicate that the participants will be served in the order in which they arrive. “First come, first serve” suggests that the first person to arrive has to serve all who follow.
A “peek” is a quick look. A “peak” is a mountain top. The correct expression is “sneak peek,” meaning a secret or early look at something.
“Shoo-in” is a common idiom that means a sure winner. To “shoo” something is to urge it in a direction. As you would shoo a fly out of your house, you could also shoo someone toward victory.
The verb “emigrate” is always used with the preposition “from,” whereas immigrate is always used with the preposition “to.” To emigrate is to come from somewhere, and to immigrate is to go to somewhere.
Peace of Mind
“Peace” of mind means calmness and tranquility. The expression “piece of mind” actually would suggest doling out sections of brain.
For All Intents and Purposes
The correct phrase, “for all intents and purposes,” originates from English law dating back to the 1500s, which used the phrase “to all intents, constructions, and purposes” to mean “officially” or “effectively.”
By and Large
The phrase “by and large” was first used in 1706 to mean “in general.” It was a nautical phrase derived from the sailing terms “by” and “large.” While it doesn’t have a literal meaning that makes sense, “by and large” is the correct version of this phrase.
“Due diligence” is a business and legal term that means you will investigate a person or business before signing a contract with them or before formally engaging in a business deal together. You should do your due diligence and investigate business deals fully before committing to them.
Piqued My Interest
To “pique” means to arouse, so the correct phrase here is “piqued my interest,” meaning that my interest was awakened. To say that something “peaked my interest” might suggest that my interest was taken to the highest possible level, but this is not what the idiom is meant to convey.
Case in Point
The correct phrase in this case is “case in point,” which derives its meaning from a dialect of Old French. While it may not make any logical sense today, it is a fixed idiom.
A love letter response to my post …
“It gives me peace of mind to know that our team of producers and marketers will have a resource that is not exclusive or first-come, first-served to conduct ample due diligence on the proper use of idioms that will, for all intents and purposes, improve our overall application of the English vernacular and emigrate from our brutish, rudimentary applications of this form of fixed expression. By and large I could care less about the grammatical prowess of others but I feel this resource will make us all a shoo-in for impressing our contemporaries and will pique their interest in our events thusly providing a case in point for why the proper use of idioms works like a charm for separating sheep from goats
Idioms are the bees knees, yo!”
One could say Bill was born to be a Sheriff’s deputy. With a name like Shellhammer, how could he not have been predestined to live a life laying down the law?
Purcellville resident William “Bill” P. Shellhammer died in his home December 16, aged 80. He was a retired Loudoun County Sheriff’s deputy, a former Vienna Police Department deputy and a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who served during the Korean War.
These days, if a Sheriff’s Deputy knows you by name it indicates that you are a delinquent or a malefactor who is up to no good. In Shellhammer’s heyday, however, it was a mark of his sharpness of mind.
Shellhammer knew every kid by name in 1960s Vienna. If you misbehaved or were up to no good, you had better prepare yourself for a stern talking to. Bill took on the proxy role as a parent in uniform; he meant business if he called you by your surname instead of your first name. ‘What would your mother think?’ He would ask, sending quivers down spines.
You couldn’t bank on his forgetfulness, either. He was known to throw the book at recurring offenders. One Purcellville resident remembers Shellhammer dismissing his pleas for a warning for the offense of squealing wheels as a teen in Vienna. No such luck — Shellhammer remembered he had warned the teen six months prior. This time he would receive a ticket.
He was tough but fair. Loudoun residents would joke that if he had found his own mother to be out of line he would write her out a ticket. This may be true, but often what is tough on the outside is soft on the inside. He treated everyone equally and had a good heart. He would often stay past his shift on special occasions so young kids could have their picture taken with him and his squad car.
“Getting out of the car and meeting shop owners and citizens in the community was a large and important part of what Shellhammer did,” said former Loudoun County Sheriff Steve Simpson.
Simpson consequently grew up in Vienna, and one of his first encounters with Shellhammer further cemented Simpson’s goal to become a police officer when aged 10 or 11 he attended a firearms safety program at which Shellhammer was an instructor and member of the Vienna Police Pistol Team, who were national champions.
“The final day of the program he and several members of the team demonstrated some of their shooting abilities. He put an ax in the middle hung from a T frame with pigeons on either side. His hand gun shot the ax blade which would split the bullet in half and would break the clay pigeon on each side. I even still have one of the bullets from that day,” said Sheriff Simpson.
During his time as an officer, just about every western Loudoun resident was handed a ticket from him. Even the Vienna residents who couldn’t escape the “Hammer’s” tickets as teens would find that years later they would be pounded again — this time most likely while he was patrolling along Route 9.
Shellhammer was born August 31, 1934 in Apollo, Penn., to the late William Park Shellhammer Sr. and Genevieve Burkette. Bill joined the U.S. Marine Corps after graduating high school, serving five years during and in the Korean War. He then went on to work for the U.S. Secret Service as security detail for former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and the Mellon family after joining the Vienna Police Department in Vienna, Va. He retired from the Loudoun County Sheriff Department.
Bill is preceded in death by his daughter, Deborah Clark. He is survived by his son, Kurt Shellhammer (Debbie) of Stafford; grandchildren, Jeffrey, Gregory, Lindsey, Kevin and Nathan; and great-grandson, Bruce. The memorial service was held December 20 at Loudoun Funeral Chapel. Memorial donations may be made to the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office, 803 Sycolin Road SE Leesburg, VA 20175 or to Loudoun County Deputy Sheriff’s Association, http://www.lcdsa.net/index.php.
Great insights from Colm Toibin on the writing process. Gives me a lot to think about, thank you, Colm.
Originally posted on Longreads Blog:
Jessica Gross | Longreads | February 2015 | 17 minutes (4,283 words)
The Irish writer Colm Tóibín has written eight novels, two books of short stories, and multiple works of nonfiction. His latest novel, Nora Webster, follows a widow in 1970s Ireland as she moves through her mourning toward a new life. That book was almost 15 years in the making, and Tóibín’s previous novel, Brooklyn, which centers on an Irish immigrant to the United States, grew out of Nora Webster’s early pages. Both novels—like all of Tóibín’s work—subtly portray their characters’ complex inner lives, the details accruing slowly to finally reveal an indelible portrait. I spoke with Tóibín, who splits his time between Dublin and New York, by phone about the protagonists he’s compelled to write about and how he goes about creating their worlds.
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