The 2016 CRM Service Elite: Labor First

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Since its inception in 2006, Labor First, an organization that manages health benefits for retirees, has made it a priority to have callers on hold for no more than about 15 seconds. But with a significant increase in membership, these high standards are increasingly harder to meet, according to David Zawrotny, Labor First's president and chief operations officer.

Beginning in 2009, the Morristown, N.J.–based company began seeing annual "exponential growth," Zawrotny says, as the number of members rose from 250 to eventually more than 25,000. "When we started bringing on so many new members, we knew we would not be able to handle the new call volume that would be coming in," Zawrotny told CRM magazine in an interview for its October 2015 Real ROI section. If the firm wanted to honor its early pledge of customer service excellence, it had two options. "One option was to hire new people," Zawrotny said. "The other was to deploy new technology."

Labor First opted for the latter route, and in August 2014 it swapped its old phone system, courtesy of Broadview Networks, for NewVoiceMedia's ContactWorld for Service software. "It's crazy how fast it happened," Zawrotny recalls. "In three days, we went from using an old system to a new system." And following the adjustment, the company was immediately able to save nearly $200,000 in staff costs. "That's what we would have needed to spend every year to bring on new people to support all the new members," Zawrotny says.

Zawrotny says that other benefits of the new system were also immediately tangible. With NewVoiceMedia, he says, Labor First was able to improve its customer service efficiency tenfold. Using the old methods, agents typically set aside 5 to 10 minutes after each call to log their notes into the system. But since NewVoiceMedia's technology automatically records customer calls, tags them, and syncs them into Salesforce.com's CRM system, agents can move on to the next conversation without much additional work.

"We've been able to pull some good data from the call logs and use it to tweak our customer service," Zawrotny added.

The deployment's other features include dynamic routing, callback, dashboards, reporting, and outbound caller ID. This last feature has been particularly helpful, Zawrotny says, in lifting the call response rate. "A lot of the time retirees screen their phone calls, so they wouldn't answer the call and just listen to the voicemail and pick up when they realized it wasn't a telemarketer," Zawrotny says.

Additionally, the system knows when recording an outbound call is legal by state and automatically disables the feature when it is not.

The more robust system has enabled Labor First to expand beyond the Northeast and offer its services to more than 30 labor unions across the United States. It helps that the technology is cloud-based and gives agents remote access to NewVoiceMedia's productivity tools.

Zawrotny estimates that Labor First can now handle 250 to 500 calls per day, and the outfit can take on additional clients that it previously had to reject. Leveraging the system, the company has created separate call paths for different member classes: Those who pay lower fees have a slightly longer call wait time, access to a reduced number of member advocates, and restrictions on after-hour calls; those who pay a premium receive higher-quality services.

Labor First also can now save seven years of call records for each customer; prior to the upgrade, the company’s records were limited to a year. "We decided to just extend it so that if in two years we have to go back to somebody's recording, it's a much easier task."

In light of such improvements, Labor First continues its steady expansion. "We should be moving into the new [corporate headquarters] by March if construction goes all right," Zawrotny says. "We're going from a 2,400-square-feet office to 6,000 or 7,000 square feet, and are pretty excited about it." 


  • $197,600 saved from not having to make new customer service hires;
  • 5 to 10 minutes saved per call, as agents no longer have to log notes manually;
  • a tenfold increase in employee efficiency; and
  • new client segments opened up.

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