AAA Northeast developed a comprehensive learning program to transform member interactions from transactional to proactive.
Solution: An all-encompassing learning experience for member service counselors geared toward increasing member satisfaction
Business impact highlight: The program has resulted in improved member satisfaction ratings as well as increased new memberships and membership renewals.
AAA Northeast is a large, innovative membership organization in North America. It exists for its members and judges everything it does by how well it meets members’ needs. The not-for-profit, multibusiness organization comprises more than 70 branches in a six-state area and provides specialized services such as insurance, travel, financial services and loans, discounts, driver training, and roadside service to 6 million members. It also advocates for issues affecting the traveling public, such as highway safety, road maintenance, and related legislation.
To live up to its mission, AAA Northeast requires a strategic focus on member service to ensure it is providing an unmatched experience in every interaction. It also aims to increase new memberships and retain existing ones. Both goals require helping prospective and existing members maximize their membership value.
In 2020, the company faced a challenge within branch operations regarding ensuring member service counselors (MSCs) have the proper sales and service skills to not only provide excellent service but also proactively educate members on the organization’s many products and service offerings. The vice president of bank operations set out to reimagine the member service standards and the way MSCs expand their knowledge, skills, and abilities.
Boosting membership valueMembers can obtain a variety of products and services within the company’s branches. The most effective way for AAA Northeast to assist members in obtaining value is to inform them of products and services that may benefit them. The organization has also seen a direct correlation between the number of products and services a member uses and their likelihood of renewing their membership.
While member survey results were consistently positive, the branch leadership team wanted to reinforce effective service and sales behaviors to ultimately lead to increased member satsifaction. The goal was also to expand employees’ knowledge and skills in educating members on additional products and services, which historically had not been a core focus for the organization.
Five Diamond ProcessThe branch operations training team first conducted a needs assessment and determined that most MSCs take a transactional approach during member interactions, completing the task the member asks for. While that may lead to a satisfied member, branch leadership believed the branch operations was failing to proactively help members obtain more value from their membership.
The branch training and senior leadership teams collaborated to develop the Five Diamond Process to drive behavior change and transform reactive, transactional member interactions into proactive, conversational member experiences. They based the program off of branch training managers’ extensive experience in service and sales roles in both frontline and leadership positions. The program also factors in elements based off of observations of branch employees and their calls with members.
The five key steps focus on creating a genuine first impression, acknowledging and empathizing, asking questions and actively listening, informing members of products and services that will provide a solution to their need, and exhibiting genuine appreciation to members.
Launched in the third quarter of 2020, all branch employees watched a 20-minute e-learning video that highlighted the Five Diamond Process and reinforced its importance to members, the business line, and the organization. The video included two real member scenarios demonstrating the Five Diamond Process in action.
Subsequently, all 400-plus branch employees across 70 locations participated in live, instructor-led synchronous webinars throughout 2021 and into 2022. The first Five Diamond Process webinar series comprised five one-hour sessions covering each step of the process in more detail. Employees also received a job aid outlining each step with clear examples of the steps in action. Participants gave the webinar series a 95 percent totally satisfied rating.
The next required webinar series was geared entirely toward employees using the Five Diamond Process to educate members on products and services and provided practical, proven examples of how to do so. The overarching goal was to reinforce that employees are doing a disservice to members by not educating them on products and services. Sessions outlined new memberships, membership upgrades, auto-renew, insurance referrals, digital memberships, and other products and services.
The branch training team also created a just-in-time microlearning library outlining practical tips on how to improve in relation to each metric. And it partnered with its sales trainer to offer sales podcasts, during which leading sales performers within the department highlighted their approach to reaching key performance indicators.
Expanding the programIn 2022, AAA Northeast took its Five Diamond Process another step forward and implemented the Five Diamond Process Phone Evaluation. Designed internally, the evaluation form consists of five sections, one for each step in the process, with 14 total questions that assess how well an employee performed relative to the expected specific behavior during a phone call.
In collaboration with the branch leadership team, the branch training team introduced the new evaluation form using multiple synchronous webinars tailored specifically for either managers or MSCs. Each session provided a detailed overview of the form, examples of how each step sounds, examples of full mock member interactions, and live role-plays. Every branch employee received an infographic that outlined each question on the evaluation and also included examples of how to achieve a maximum score for each.
Managers received substantially more training and were required to score three calls for every MSC on a monthly basis. That has been extremely effective in reinforcing the Five Diamond Process and has directly affected member satisfaction scores.
Comprehensive learning experienceThe Five Diamond Process is an all-encompassing approach to service that leads to sales. The branch training team intentionally shifted from a one-time training event to a comprehensive learning experience that values continuous learning and employees demonstrating a growth mindset. The Five Diamond Process is also part of a multifaceted approach to performance improvement.
In 2021, the organization introduced a new GROW (goal, reality, obstacles/options, way forward/will) Coaching form and a management development program. While two different initiatives, they are both strategically focused on reinforcing the key concepts covered in the Five Diamond Process. Together, all three programs equip employees with practical skills to improve performance relative to KPIs.
Since implementing these programs, AAA Northeast has seen sustained improvement in member satisfaction, achieving a 92 percent member satisfaction score, which was a 4 percent improvement compared to the score before the company launched the programs. Additionally, AAA Northeast began tracking its Net Promoter Score after the launch of the Five Diamond Process and has achieved an 88.4 through September 2022 within branch operations.
The essence of the Five Diamond Process is that effective service leads to effective sales. The initiative has increased the KPIs. New memberships through the third quarter of 2022 were up by 36 percent; membership upgrades had increased 50 percent, and auto-renewals were up 19 percent compared to before the program’s launch.
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