Benefits administrator blog from Delta Dental

Category: Inside Delta Dental (Page 1 of 3)

Get to know the people behind the scenes at Delta Dental.

Customer service — reimagined

Customer satisfaction is about more than products. To ensure that customers are truly satisfied, the customer service they receive must be as outstanding as the product they purchase.

To take the customer service experience to a new level, we’ve introduced CX Reimagined, a training program that transforms the relationship between our customers and representatives, creating a transaction that’s more empathetic, intuitive and satisfying than ever before.

After two years of development, design and implementation, more than 1,000 full-time Delta Dental Customer Operations employees, including agents, supervisors and leaders, are scheduled to complete CX Reimagined by October 2021.

Putting the customer in customer service

Delta Dental’s customer service had been effective ­— in 2020, agents answered 12.7 million calls and resolved 99% of issues on the first call. It needed to be something more, though, said Ben Sieke, Director of Talent Development & Learning.

“Initially, our biggest goal was efficiency: Let’s take as many calls as we can as quickly as we can,” Sieke said. “But there was opportunity for us to look at this differently. Not to move away from running an efficient business, obviously, but instead to put the customer front and center. Every time somebody calls in, there’s an opportunity for us to delight them.”

Sieke said that while his team briefly considered purchasing training from an outside vendor, they quickly realized that the only way to ensure that this new set of customer service standards could be achieved was to design the training in house.

“We said, let’s create a custom Delta Dental learning experience for our people,” Sieke said. “CX Reimagined training is specifically for our employees, and it feels that way. It’s designed so that it feels real and relevant to their jobs.”

Answering the questions customers didn’t ask

One of the main focuses of CX Reimagined is to develop soft skills that enable agents to interact more effectively and personably with customers, said Earl Parker, Delta Dental’s Vice President of Customer Operations. These skills include empathy, active listening and de-escalation.

“Far too often, we want to jump in and solve without really understanding the issue,” Parker said. “So part of the training speaks to how you actively listen, how you affirm what you’ve heard to make sure that you’re going to answer and solve for the right thing.”

Another aspect of the training is teaching agents how to ask probing questions, questions that require more than a “yes” or “no” answer and help agents discover underlying or additional issues customers have.

“If our agents answered only the question that was asked of them, they would miss an opportunity to answer the bigger question, to solve the bigger issue, the customer has,” Sieke said. “Being a bit more empathetic and curious enables us to solve the whole problem at once.”

And these soft skills set Delta Dental’s service apart for the customer, Parker said.

“That’s viewed as by the customer as going above and beyond, not just servicing. And I think that’s important if we want to truly enhance the experience,” Parker said.

The results are in

While the intent to do better is there, one question looms large: Did it work? Did the training objectively improve the customer experience? Based on early results, the answer appear to be yes.

Customers rate Delta Dental’s customer service based on two sets of criteria:

  • Net Promoter Score (NPS), which is based on a zero-to-10 ranking of how likely customers are to recommend Delta Dental’s customer service to others
  • Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT), where customers rank the service they received on a one-to-15 scale

Since CX Reimagined was launched in July 2020, both these metrics have improved substantially, according to a recent study on the training’s impact. Also encouraging was that a performance increase was seen in all employees.

“What’s interesting is that the most dramatic improvements were among the lower performers, the agents who were struggling,” Sieke said. “If you weren’t good at this and were lacking these skills, you acquired them in training and now you’re doing a great job.”

This is only the beginning

For CX Reimagined, the end of this phase is just the first step in an ongoing journey, Parker said.

Among the next steps he envisions are an annual refresher training for agents and doing more to help agents serve the broker and benefits administrator communities.

Analyzing customer data more closely to understand issues completely is another goal.

“For instance, if we find that members with a certain plan option are generally more dissatisfied than members who have other plan options, then we need to look at the data to understand what’s wrong,” Parker said. “That way we can fix it so those members are happier with the product.”

And making customers happier through expert, friendly, proactive customer service is the goal of CX Reimagined.

“We want our employees to be fully engaged in helping our members and providers navigate Delta Dental,” Parker said. “We want them to be fully engaged in providing easy experiences for members and providers, and we want them to be fully equipped to provide these experiences.”

Millennials love their insurance jobs?!

2‑minute read

When Sarah Lee asked herself what she wanted to do when she grew up, she did what any millennial might do: She Googled it. “I searched ‘good at math, but don’t want to be a teacher’, and actuary was one of the first things that came up,” she says.

About a decade later, Lee is now happily in her second year as a senior actuarial analyst at Delta Dental. It might not sound like the most “millennial” career, but a job in the insurance industry offers more appeal to the rising workforce than it might seem on the surface.

A recent survey from Vertafore© found that 87% of millennials in the industry would recommend a career in insurance to their friends. What’s more, 76% have been in insurance for more than three years and 72% plan to stay in the industry as long as possible, bucking the popular stereotype of millennial job hopping.

For millennials at Delta Dental, the excitement of an industry that’s always changing keeps them engaged at work.

“There’s always something new in your current role, so you never really get bored of what you’re doing,” says Ben Calderon, senior actuarial analyst. “That’s definitely important. I don’t want to feel stagnant in my position.”

Conversely, Calderon says millennials fuel the evolution of the industry with new ideas and skills.

That’s what attracted Shamekha Ghani to the newly created role of business intelligence manager at Delta Dental. Feeling like her previous position had gotten too routine, she jumped at the chance to “have a big impact” in her job.

“Millennials are very driven by learning, by having challenges,” she says. “They’re really concerned about their career development. They really want to feel like they’re making progress.”

Even in traditional roles, a fresh perspective can make a big difference. When Taylor Granville started at Delta Dental, she saw an opportunity to take her account manager position to a new level.

Granville was originally drawn to the client-facing nature of the role—rather than the world of insurance. But now she’s a major advocate for the importance of dental benefits, and she loves speaking with people and giving them the opportunity to enroll and improve their oral health.

“If you’re driven and you like to make a difference in people’s lives, then it’s definitely the industry to be in,” Granville says.

She adds that the strong insurance job market may allow young millennials to get a fast start on a career.

The intrigue of a stable job with room for advancement might sound old-fashioned, but it’s not completely lost on millennials.

“When I was choosing what career path to go down, I was really focused on [job] stability, and I feel like a lot of my peers were not,” Lee says.

The insurance industry might not seem flashy enough for some millennials, but the ones who found themselves at Delta Dental have found a lot to like. And they can see why 87% of their surveyed peers would recommend a job in insurance.


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Congresswoman Handel visits Delta Dental’s Alpharetta office

3- minute read

Delta Dental welcomed U.S. Representative Karen Handel (GA‑6) to our Alpharetta office in metro Atlanta on Thursday to meet with our employees, discuss legislative issues and celebrate the vibrant business community in North Fulton County.

Rep. Karen Handel speaking to employees at Delta Dental’s Alpharetta, GA office

Rep. Handel’s visit began with a brief tour of the facility for our Direct to Consumer (D2C) business segment, which is focused on delivering affordable dental care products for individuals and promoting access to dental care across the country.

According to the National Association of Dental Plans, 74 million Americans had no dental coverage at the end of 2016. Through health care exchanges and membership programs like AARP, our D2C business unit is aiming to provide coverage to the uninsured as well as those who may lose employer-sponsored coverage upon retirement. With roughly 10,000 Americans retiring every day, the opportunity to provide coverage and peace of mind continues to grow.

Employees in Delta Dental’s D2C facility in Alpharetta, GA

Rep. Handel and Delta Dental delegates discussed opportunities to make dental coverage more widely available through the health insurance marketplace by allowing individuals to purchase a dental plan without requiring the purchase of medical coverage.

“Delta Dental has been hard at work with their D2C initiative to bring new markets to the forefront. Through this program, people have better options for dental coverage in the health care marketplace,” says Rep. Handel. “Additionally, I applaud their commitment to our community and to provide greater dental insurance access.”

Rep. Handel also took the opportunity to address a broad range of questions from employees. For instance, she responded to questions about legislation on local transportation, including a $184 million federal grant to expand GA State Route 400.

We are fortunate to welcome policymakers into our workplace to celebrate our mutual successes, and to work toward a better future both on a national scale and within our local communities. Delta Dental looks forward to continuing our work with federal lawmakers and regulatory agencies to improve access to quality dental care across the country.

Congresswoman Karen Handel speaking with delegates from Delta Dental in Alpharetta, GA

On Rep. Handel’s visit, Senior Legislation and Policy Analyst Stephanie Berry says, “We really appreciate the opportunity to discuss a federal policy issue affecting our D2C business with the congresswoman. Currently, the only way to purchase dental plans on the health care exchanges is by first purchasing medical coverage. If the system were updated to allow Americans to purchase dental directly on the exchanges, millions more Americans, including the millions of retirees on Medicare, would have the opportunity to purchase affordable, high-quality dental.”

For more information about our work on health care policy, meet our staff of policy experts.

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Capturing the voice of the customer

4‑minute read

While keeping your enrollees’ smiles healthy is our top priority, we also want our dental plans to give them reasons to smile. So how do we do that? We listen, of course. It sounds simple, but with more than 35 million diverse enrollees, capturing their voice can be a bit, well … complicated. That’s why we created an entire team who’s devoted to listening — to what’s working and what’s not, to suggestions, to experiences and to the just plain weird (and wonderful).

To give you an inside look at how our Customer Experience (CX) team transforms your voices into action, we sat down with Marti White, whose most recent titles include Customer Advocate in CX and Manager of Insights for the Marketing team here at Delta Dental.

Q: Before we jump in, can you tell us about your journey at Delta Dental? How did you become interested in CX?

A: I spent my first six years at Delta Dental in the contact center, filling multiple roles from agent to manager. You learn fast in the contact center — it turned me into a very agile person. I became obsessed with customer satisfaction, but wanted a role where I could do it on a larger scale. At that point, the CX team was looking for a Customer Advocate, a position that over the last year allowed me to help improve technology and processes to create a meaningful impact for the customer. Now, as Manager of Insights in Marketing, I’ll continue this work, but widen my efforts to gathering detailed, actionable feedback from our dentists, benefits administrators and brokers, too.

Q: How would you describe the role of a Customer Advocate?

A: In this role, you become a detective and an advocate for the customer. You drill down into customer issues that might not seem like issues at first glance. But Customer Advocates are trained to not take anything at face value. Instead, we take these seemingly disparate issues, find the root cause, and then resolve them to improve experiences for the entire enrollee population.

Q: So, how do you identify these issues? I.e., how do you listen to the customer?

A: It’s important to identify the crucial moments that influence an enrollee’s experience. For us, we’ve been looking at the moments following a dentist visit, a claim processing or an interaction with customer service. We survey enrollees closely following these key moments, so we’re getting their immediate, honest responses.

I spend a good amount of time speaking with customers directly, too. Whether an issue gets bubbled up to me through the contact center, or an enrollee asks to be contacted in a survey, it’s important for me to keep my boots on the ground to make sure I’m still hearing the customer’s voice directly, rather than making assumptions.

Q: Do we use social media feedback to improve the customer experience?

A: Yes, absolutely! We work with our social media team on a daily basis by helping them respond to complex questions, and identifying those issues I mentioned. For example, we recently discovered through a social media post that the payment portal for our direct to consumer plans was refreshing a bit too quickly, making it difficult to pay a bill. We were able to resolve this issue not only for that one person, but also create a better experience for future enrollees.

Q: Because everyone needs dental care, we have a very broad customer base. How do you ensure a great customer experience for such a diverse group? 

A: By researching our customers’ entire journey, we’ve actually found several common factors that help us predict satisfaction among all age groups. Typically, when an enrollee trusts their insurance carrier and their dentist, they’re very satisfied. We also find higher satisfaction when enrollees have a solid understanding of their benefits and they’re actually using them. This is why we focus our studies around enrollees’ relationships with us and their dentist, along with key plan events, like getting started using their plan.

However, we also recognize that people have different dental needs and cost drivers at different stages of their life. By offering a broad range of plans, both groups and individual customers can have benefits that fit their lifestyle and budget.

Q: Speaking of diverse customers — do you ever gather feedback from non-Delta Dental customers?

A: Yes, we hit the streets and gather feedback from people face to face. Many of these people are not our enrollees, and they also might not even have dental insurance. We ask things like “how do you find a dentist you love?” or “what’s most important to you in a dental plan?” It’s a great opportunity to get raw, honest feedback.

Q: What do you think sets our CX department apart from others?

A: We understand that focusing on what customers want now isn’t enough. We also make it a priority to anticipate their needs tomorrow and years down the road. Oh, and we have a lot of fun doing it!


Thanks for reading. Stay tuned for updates as we roll out exciting new features for your group.



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Delta Dental is making moves

1‑minute read

After 30 years at 100 First Street in San Francisco, we’re moving our corporate headquarters. We’re making our move right across the street to 560 Mission Street.  We’re also opening an office across the bay in downtown Oakland, which will help us to better serve our clients and business partners with an expanded presence across the Bay Area. Our East Bay office will be located in downtown Oakland at 1333 Broadway.

San Francisco office

New office location in San Francisco at 560 Mission Street

Oakland office

New office location in downtown Oakland at 1333 Broadway

While this is exciting news, our move will have virtually zero effect on our clients and enrollees. Our physical addresses will change, but you can still reach your sales contact(s) via email and phone with no changes.

Additionally, our service center locations are not involved in the move, so there will be no impact on correspondence, claims and contact center operations.

Please feel free to direct any inquiries to, or visit us online at

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