On our first podcast episode, we connect with Koen Vandendriessche, Commercial Director at Partena health insurance in Belgium. He shares the amazing story of how Partena was one of the first companies in Belgium to launch video calling with customers. So tune in or read along to discover what learnings Partena has picked up about video CX.
Q - 24sessions: Koen, what are your responsibilities as Commercial Manager at Partena?
Koen (Partena): I'm responsible for all front office activities. One of those is Sales, so I'm partly responsible for the growth of the company. For acquiring new clients, but also for the upsell on our existing client population. A team of 120 people are involved in my activities.
Q It seems that Partena has made a clear choice to use a number of digital channels for interacting with customers. Why is that?
Koen: First of all, we want to maintain our position as digital leader in our industry. That means you have to innovate very fast, so innovation is part of our strategy. We want to be the first digital leader in the health insurance industry. I think it's already been 3 or 4 years since we’ve had that position. But in order to keep it, you need to actively look for new tools or innovations on the market. Video calling was one of the tools that no one in our industry was using yet.
Q You mention video calling. What triggered Partena to start using this channel?
Koen: We are a fast growing company but we aim to service our prospects and customers with the same workforce every year. That means that we are always looking for efficiencies in our day to day work. We knew that video calling could help us achieve more efficiency in our contact strategy. So that was one of the main reasons we were looking for a supplier on video calling.
Q So the choice to start offering video calls was mainly efficiency driven?
Koen: It was mainly about efficiency. Secondly, our choice to start video calling was part of our digital strategy. And another reason: we have 40 offices around Belgium, but in some parts of the country we didn't have any offices. It’s very difficult to provide good service to clients who might be a 40-50 minute drive from our nearest office. So I figured video calling could also help solve that problem.
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Q On the one side, Partena is investing a lot in digital channels, but you also still have a strong physical footprint with 40 offices around Belgium. Are those two channels working together, or are they contradicting?
Koen: That's a good question. In fact, two years ago we started to provide remote tools to our office staff as well. The client advisors working in our offices can work in both channels. They get to choose if they want to work with remote tools, or schedule physical meetings with clients. Our client advisors have a lot of tools at their disposal, some of those for remote customer contact. They can do physical appointments, schedule video meetings, go on a chat, on WhatsApp.
Q Is the client advisor in the lead to decide which channel to use then? Or does the customer choose how to connect with you?
Koen: Both. Our advisors can choose the channel, but we also have an appointment tool on our website, which is open for clients. This is the same tool that is used by client advisors to schedule an appointment with a client. And on top of that, we have ‘open door’ time slots at our offices. So clients can also choose to just go and talk to us in an office, they can call us by phone, we can call clients. The choices we offer go both ways - each contact channel is open for both clients and client advisors to book.
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Q To zoom in on video - you implemented it at the end of 2019. How did that go? Was everyone at Partena immediately on board? Or did you have to convince certain stakeholders?
Koen: Our management was convinced. There was some discussion with client advisors in the beginning, though. When we first communicated about doing a proof of concept for video calling, some advisors assumed they would have to work evenings too, after normal office hours. And a lot of staff in the front office didn’t have the right technical skills yet, so they had a lot of questions. What if technical problems arrive? So at first, we got the impression that video calling maybe was too big of a change.
Q Alright, so there was some resistance at first. How did you tackle that?
Koen: True. We could tackle it, first of all, because we had a Customer Success Manager. Someone from 24sessions supported us in training and coaching, actually sitting next to the client advisor during the first video calls they made.
But the biggest win we had was that one of the client advisors was a high potential in our organization. We asked him to be the Project Manager on the business side of the project. Because he was one of them - he knew the client advisors, what hurdles they faced and how to address them. This project manager was really motivated to get everybody on board and at that point, we were able to tackle a lot of problems just because he used to be a client advisor himself and really understood the questions that his colleagues raised. And afterwards we gave him the opportunity to be promoted to application owner of video calls.
In short, our implementation was not top down, we had ‘one of them’ leading the client advisors through the project. It’s as if we had our own internal Customer Success Manager too.
Q 24sessions: That's interesting. It’s something that we observe with many other customers - how the project lead is not always as connected to the business and definitely not to the end user. While here you really chose to make one of the users responsible for the projects and then offer career opportunities.
Q Then if we look at implementation of CX video calls, there's a couple of general topics that organizations focus on. One of them we just talked about, organizational alignment and which stakeholders to involve in the project.
But another one is technology and integrations. At Partena, you decided from day 1 to implement video calling as an integrated channel - not as a standalone tool. Can you explain which integrations you chose to build and then, why did you choose these integrations from day one?
Koen: As I mentioned before, we have our own appointment tool built in on the website, which includes. Some auto notifications when a client books an appointment. We really wanted the same tool to be in the front end UI for booking a video call. So we first focused on scheduling appointments and building a full integration with our own tool. Then, we use Microsoft Dynamics 365 as CRM. In order to have the 360 degree view on a client and client behavior, it was really necessary to integrate with our CRM. Plus we use Tableau as a BI tool and we wanted all the reporting on the video proof of concept to be in Tableau. Those three tools were on the list to have a fully integrated video solution. And by the time we actually went live with video calls, we didn’t have any more integrations to build.
Q That integration you built with the booking module is really important. The fact that you offered video calls as a new channel to your customers directly from the start, seeing if there was an appetite for video, really contributed to the amount of video calls Partena did. Because it was a big success form day one - as soon as we launched there were video appointments flowing in.
Koen: Correct. If you want to know the percentage, during the first two months of the proof of concept more than 80% of the bookings for video calls were coming from our clients themselves.
Pieter (24sessions): It’s great to see the end customer driving the use of video calls. And those successful numbers are also important to prove to your internal stakeholders that there’s a real demand for video calling amongst customers.
Q You also coupled concrete business goals to video calling from the very first start. Video was not something you were just trying out to see what it would bring - it was obviously an answer to a challenge in your organization. Can you elaborate on those business goals you set for video calling?
Koen: We wanted to bench video calling against physical meetings, which we had already been doing for four years. First of all, we tracked the Net Promoter Score for video meetings, which turned out just as good as our current Net Promoter Score for meeting in an office.
Secondly, I wanted to reduce the steps in our sales funnel, that's the efficiency gain that I wanted to achieve.
Then thirdly, there was the conversion rate. We have a high conversion rate on leads when they come to one of our offices to meet with an advisor. I wanted to have the same conversion ratio - or better - for video meetings. So that the efficiency gain of fewer steps in the sales funnel is not being counterbalanced by lower conversion rates. And the fourth goal was to have all technical integrations continue after the proof of concept.
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Q And how are you tracking on those goals?
Koen: From the beginning it became clear that the Net Promoter Score on video calling is very high. I believe our average NPS for video calls is now 78, which is better than physical meetings. Thanks to video calling, we have one less step in our sales funnel. So we can close deals quicker while the conversion rate is just the same as for physical appointments in an office.
It’s great that with the Tableau integration, we’re able to track conversion rates real-time and compare them with physical meetings still happening in our offices.
Q Then in March COVID-19 happens, after you just started with CX video calls at the end of 2019. How did the recent developments impact video?
Koen: Yes, after the proof of concept, we went live for client advisors in sales. Then Covid-19 arrived and we immediately opened our booking module, our appointment tool for video meetings, for service topics too. So we had to double our team of client advisors using video calls, in order to also be able to help our customers with service topics via video.
Scaling to this number of advisors was originally not meant to go so fast of course. But due to the corona outbreak we were obliged to. And in less than a week we scaled up from 11 or 12 client advisors in sales to 25 extra advisors using video calls for service topics.
And secondly, what also happened is that our bigger sister, PartenaMut in the French-speaking part of Belgium, didn’t have video calls yet. They are normally very sceptical on new tools, but within 2 or 3 weeks, they asked us how we managed the corona situation and they also contacted 24sessions. So now also the southern part of Belgium is on video calls. Covid-19 really accelerated the broader adoption of video calls within the Partena group.
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Q Now let’s look to the future. What we see in the market is that video CX went from a nice to have channel for most companies to an actual must-have, a crucial channel. How do you see the video calling evolve for Partena in the future, Koen?
Koen: At the moment, the video call option is used by client advisors in our physical offices. After summer, we are going to create 2 fully dedicated teams in service and sales which will be mainly working via video.
Right now, video calls take up about 20-25% of an advisor’ daily jobs. After summer, we will have a full video team on both service and sales. Because what we see now, is that when we open 100 slots for video meetings, 89% is filled 24 hours later. That means that we need to scale up our capacity for video calls. The 25 people using video now need to be scheduled on video calls more often, and I have to create dedicated teams.
Q That’s interesting, then you’re going from an advisor with multiple channels at their disposal - face-to-face, phone and video - to teams with a dedicated focus on video calling.
Yes, that’s true. The reason is that due to Covid-19, our advisors have started to work from home. I think they will continue to work from home, which means they can’t have physical meetings with clients. A special video call team will give our advisors the opportunity to keep on working from home.
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