Kaiser Permanente and the Alliance of Health Care Unions

Hank Q1-2017

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Giving Equal Opportunity to All

Lilian Cates and Chris Buffington, seated and talking

Lilian Cates, a labor sponsor (pictured here with Chris Buffington, a customer service representative and member of SEIU Local 105), helped spearhead the issue resolution at the contact center, which created a clear, unbiased way to identify candidates for the chat captain position.

Denver contact center team clarifies selection process for leadership role

For customer service representatives, the role of “chat captain” is a plum post—a leadership position that allows a rep to develop expertise and offers a break from the phones. But at the Member Service Contact Center (MSCC) in Denver, uncertainty about how the captains were chosen was breeding low morale.

The chat captains specialize in a range of topics, from Medicare and Medicaid to specific health plans for regions including Colorado, the Northwest, and Northern and Southern California. When a co-worker is on the phone with a member and doesn’t have an answer to a question, he or she can message a chat captain and get information quickly, before the call ends—helping provide great service to that member.

But the process managers used to select the 25 chat captains wasn’t clear, so the 400 customer service representatives didn’t know what they needed to do to qualify for the position. 

When staff have the opportunity to take on a leadership role, they feel empowered.
Team labor sponsor and SEIU Local 105 member at the Member Service Contact Center, Denver

“When there’s a lack of transparency, there’s a lack of trust on both sides. It’s easy to assume ill intent from the other side when you don’t talk to them,” says Dylan DeShazer, one of the center’s operations managers and a UBT stakeholder. “The issue resolution helped us realize that we had common goals—and that helped us build trust in one another.”

Realizing they needed help from outside the team to turn the situation around, the team’s customer service reps contacted SEIU Local 105, which represents them, and Michael Hurley, the regional LMP training and program manager, to facilitate an issue resolution. That brought managers, customer service reps and frontline union leaders together to establish a standardized assessment to identify candidates for the peer leadership position.  

The solution “allows equal opportunities for all customer service representatives here,” says Shaneka Lee, a customer service representative and a Local 105 steward. “It also provides a career ladder, being able to add ‘subject matter expert’ to your résumé as an accomplishment.”

Indeed, after working at the center for a year and a half, Lynn Rodriguez felt she was ready to be a chat captain. She met the requirements—and now is assisting her peers with their daily questions and concerns. The new process, she says, “allowed me to prove myself.”

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