Westlake Village, Calif. - The Hartford Financial Services Group Inc. has been recognized for call center operation customer satisfaction excellence under the J.D. Power and Associates Certified Call Center Program. The Hartford property and casualty sales and service centers are the first in the insurance industry to be certified under the program.Through its direct personal lines business, the Hartford, Conn.-based carrier handled more than 10,000,000 telephone, e-mail and fax interactions in 2004 from its call centers in Southington, Conn., Allentown, Pa., Santee, Calif., and Oklahoma City.

The call center operation successfully passed a detailed audit of its recruiting, training, employee incentives, management roles and responsibilities, and quality assurance capabilities. In addition, J.D. Power and Associates conducted a random survey of customers who recently contacted The Hartford's call centers.

For certification status, a call center operation must perform within the top 20% of customer service, based on J.D. Power and Associates' cross-industry customer satisfaction research.

"The Hartford's call center operation far surpassed the rigorous standards of the certification process, demonstrating the company's strong commitment to providing customers with a consistent, positive experience with its call centers," says Steve Kirkeby, senior director of the telecommunications practice at J.D. Power and Associates.

"Customer interactions with a call center can have a profound and lasting impact on overall customer satisfaction and loyalty. The Hartford has created a highly customer-focused culture that stresses the importance of meeting customer needs at every touch point opportunity. The Hartford's customers give particularly high ratings to both its customer service representatives and call center operation in general."

The evaluation criteria used during the survey include: courtesy of the customer service representative (CSR); knowledge of the CSR; the CSR's concern for the customer questions and/or problem; usefulness of the information provided; convenience of customer service operating hours; ease of getting through to a CSR; and the timely resolution of the customer's problem, question or request. Certification is valid for one year.

The Call Center Certification Program was launched by J.D. Power and Associates in 2004 to evaluate overall customer satisfaction and help call centers in various industries increase their efficiency and effectiveness by establishing best practices for handling service calls.

There are more than 75,000 call centers in North America and an estimated 125,000 worldwide that help customers with product and service questions across a multitude of industries, ranging from credit cards, financial services, investment services, utilities, service warranty and insurance to telecommunications, healthcare and office products.

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