How Progressive Insurance Helps Home-Based Agents Learn

A Microsoft Office Sharepoint site gives home-based agents a closer tie to Progressive culture.

By Margery Weinstein

During 2008, The Progressive Group of Insurance Companies Contact Centers conducted a pilot to determine the impact of allowing contact center representatives to work from home. Based on the success of this pilot, additional participants were added. As of July 2011, the company had 500 reps working from home. The effort required significant collaboration between leadership, Human Resources, workforce management, information technology, and training.

To make it a positive learning experience for the home-based agents (HBAs), the training organization had to initiate many changes quickly. A task force was formed to complete the following initiatives:

  • Conduct a complete analysis of all instructor-led courses to determine which ones could be taught virtually. Approximately 300 courses were reviewed.
  • Conduct workshops for instructional designers to train them on how to design courses to be interactive and engaging when taken virtually.
  • Hold train-the-trainer sessions to teach trainers how to conduct classes virtually and how to use Web conferencing.
  • Implement follow-up procedures to make sure the classes were effective. In addition to conducting surveys, focus groups were held with work-from-home reps to gather feedback so Progressive could improve its processes.
  • Develop a Microsoft Office Sharepoint site to give the HBAs a closer tie to Progressive culture. Pictures and videos were posted of various reps, best practices were shared, and the site was used for communications specific to the HBAs.

Without the ability to support HBAs from a training perspective, the project could not have been started. The company’s results have been positive in terms of key performance indicators.

  • Sales close rates have been consistently higher for its on-site reps for 2010 and 2011, although the gap is becoming smaller over time.
  • First-call resolution began in line with the onsite reps, but over time, the HBAs have outperformed the on-site reps, especially January to July 2011.
  • Progressive’s customer retention measure was higher four out of the first six months in 2011. The other two months it was equal to that of non-work-from-home reps.

One key benefit to having a work-from-home program is the flexibility it offers employees. Progressive offers all employees a survey twice a year in which they can give feedback on their work environment along with other employee-focused items. On a recent work environment survey, the company’s HBA population scored higher than its on-site population. Along with the numeric ratings, there were numerous comments regarding how much employees appreciated having the opportunity to do their job from home. Not only does it offer flexibility in managing work-life balance, it also offers cost savings to the employee. Less time in traffic and saving money on gas are two of the most frequently mentioned candid comments. Progressive says it eventually will save on real estate costs, as well. In addition, workforce management will leverage the HBAs for non-traditional-hour schedules.

HAVE INPUT OR TIPS on this topic? If so, send them our way in an e-mail to lorri@trainingmag.com with the subject line “Progressive,” and we’ll try to include your advice in an upcoming edition of the Training Top 125 Best Practices/Executive Exchange e-newsletter.

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