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Innovating through crisis: How going virtual helped us improve customer service

 Like so many companies, COVID-19 totally upended how we do business. Our education team’s calendar is usually filled with on-site client visits, allowing them to provide face-to-face guidance to employees on retirement plans. 

Not so much in 2020.

This year, we’ve been pushed to think outside the box, to reimagine how we provide support and education and to establish a new normal for how we do business.

Moving online

Shifting focus to video and phone calls is the (relatively) easy part. Scheduling and logistics of said calls – that’s where things can get tricky.

Coincidentally, we started transitioning to an online scheduling tool a few months before the phrase “global pandemic” was a regular part of our lexicon. After testing it with a few clients, we were ready to roll it out more broadly by the time the world moved online.

Scheduling online, we are able to set parameters for when our team members are available for meetings, then supply a link to our client human resources departments to provide to their staff. Using that link, employees schedule one-on-one phone calls or video chats within our team’s pre-determined parameters for scheduling.

The result? We’ve held hundreds of one-on-one virtual meetings since the pandemic started, allowing us to maintain our valuable services for our clients’ employees during this critical time.

What we like about virtual visits

Advanced knowledge. When scheduling, employees note topics they want to discuss during their meeting. Knowing that in advance means we can prepare, making for more productive and informed conversations on both ends.

Shifting the burden away from HR. Human resource departments are busy enough. With online scheduling, employees connect directly with us after the initial link is sent out. Not only does this ease the workload for HR, it empowers employees.

We’re hearing more directly from participants, while keeping HR in the loop.

Ease of time constraints. On-site visits happen on a specific day, during a specific timeframe. Although we’ve always tried to be accommodating, inevitably there are some people who would like to meet with us, but can’t fit it in their day. Virtual meetings have removed a lot of those barriers. Especially in healthcare where there are plenty of second- and third-shift workers; providing greater flexibility in scheduling is a major win.

Room for improvement

Walk-ups. When we’re on-site, an employee may drop in for a meeting just because they happen to see us in the building. With online scheduling, that happens less and less. As safety concerns ease, our on-site presence will once again address this. Where visitation restrictions remain, our focus with HR has shifted from on-site scheduling logistics to messaging, visibility and flexibility.

A permanent shift

COVID-19 has redefined what our normal business looks like. We were already creating alternative online solutions before this global pandemic began, but the restrictions placed on us greatly accelerated our use and acceptance of virtual scheduling and meeting, probably by years.

As social distancing restrictions relax, we’ll be back meeting with our clients’ employees in person if that’s the right fit. But scheduling and meeting virtually is a change that’s here to stay to some degree, large or small, and we’re excited about that.

We’ll continue to use this tool beyond the pandemic as we strive to find even more ways to connect and meet our clients’ needs the best we can, wherever our clients may be.

If you have any questions, or would like to begin talking to a retirement plan advisor, please get in touch by calling (800) 388-1963 or email us at hbs@hanys.org.

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