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Mass Mutual Life Insurance Company - Marilyn Edstrom

Gold Stevie Award Winner 2018, Click to Enter The 2019 Stevie Awards for Sales and Customer Service

Company: Mass Mutual Life Insurance Company, Springfield, MA
Company Description: Founded in 1851, Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual) is an American mutual life insurance company serving 5 million clients. With headquarters in Springfield, Massachusetts, the company employs more than 7,000 in the United States, and a total of 10,614 internationally. MassMutual was ranked 76th in the Fortune 500 list (as of June 15, 2016).
Nomination Category: Customer Service & Call Center Awards Individual Categories
Nomination Sub Category: Customer Service Leader of the Year

Nomination Title: Marilyn Edstrom, Customer Service Leader of the Year

Tell the story about what this nominee achieved since the beginning of July 2016 (up to 650 words). Focus on specific accomplishments, and relate these accomplishments to past performance or industry norms. Be sure to mention obstacles overcome, innovations or discoveries made, and outcomes:

Disability Income Post Issue Servicing at Mass Mutual underwent a transformation bringing Disability Income Post Issue Servicing and Disability Income Payment Servicing together to become Disability Income Operations. The goal was to improve the Customer Experience, Increase Efficiencies and Operational Flexibility. This was a challenging time, there were inconsistent service times, high customer service escalations, and morale was at an all-time low. There were numerous hand-offs in processes between these two teams and the organization needed to change.

As With any large cultural change, Marilyn knew her team needed to be part of the solution. Marilyn engaged the team together they determined and established one United Goal and Purpose, developing tactical and strategic initiatives to improve: Communication, enhance Talent Development and foster a Continuous Improvement Culture. The most important element was to create trust.

Through Marilyn’s infectious energetic and motivating approach, daily huddles were implemented (led by team members), to discuss morale, staffing, communication updates, service scorecard data and review servicing plan for the day. Next, associates built a skill matrix, so we could eliminate all single points of dependency and close knowledge gaps. Before we could train, we needed to ensure we had comprehensive documentation on all functions. Fragmented training was eliminated, improved traditional training methods by training across functions/platforms. As associates reviewed process stream maps, numerous process improvements were identified/implemented.

Marilyn’s leadership, philosophies transparent communication shifted the climate; only together can we succeed; experiment and try things; if it fails, learn fast, move on, celebrate and share what you have learned, if it works great celebrate and share. The team approached problem solving/experimentation similar to Thomas Sowell’s quote: “It is amazing how fast people learn when they are not insulated from the consequences of their decisions.” One experiment that was a huge win was a Quality Assurance program. With the high volume of customer service escalations, members on the team created and implemented a peer QA program, where staff welcomed feedback to grow and enhance skills. This program is now being vetted, tested by several other Back Office Operations teams.

We improved documentation, reduced service escalations by 95%. We also improved Service Efficiencies and Customer Experiences: by reducing handoffs through skills enhancement, service delivery was reduced from five days (5 days) to one point five days (1.5 days) while absorbing a volume increase of 9.5%.

Employee Engagement Survey improvements were 67% to 93% while being inundated with positive feedback via several modes (i.e. customer surveys) “Your hard work and turning requests around so quickly has resulted in new sales for us. Pick a day, I want to buy the team lunch” – From our sales team.

On Marilyn’s leadership, many notes of appreciation such as:

" I so appreciate that you have been part of my professional life and so thankful for you and your compassionate leadership". Gina Derrick
“I have to tell you these past months, I have learned,different products, systems, I feel really great. I want to thank you, you continue to inspire me to be better, grow and help me build my confidence – you are an amazing leader”. Rosa Santos

Why should Marilyn be Customer Service Leader of the Year? Marilyn is a leader who embodies the 4 H’s of Leadership:

Heart: Passion for what she does, presses on in the face of disappointment and loss
Humility: She channels her ego needs toward the larger goal of building a great culture
Humor: Maintains a sense of humor about herself and what life has brought her
 Honor – Follows a moral and ethical code that enables others to place a high level of trust in them.