bWise – Ep 24: Ice Baths to Client Service Excellence: A Conversation With bswift COO Amit Jain

Description of this episode

Listen in as bswift Chief Operating Officer, Amit Jain, talks about his passion for client service, his unique approach to leadership, and his vision for the future. Amit also shares his love for cold therapy (Wim Hof, anyone?), and how it influences his work ethic and dedication to delivering results. He dives deep into the challenges and opportunities in the benefits administration industry, and outlines bswift’s strategy for consistently exceeding client expectations. You’ll also hear about Amit’s commitment to building a culture of “higher standards,” “greater accountability,” and yes, even “more fun” at bswift.


View recording transcript >

    Well, Sharon, we have a very special guest with us today. Amit Jain is the Chief Operating Officer of bswift. Amit, uh, lives in New Jersey, near New York City. He was, uh, educated at the Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management, where he earned an MBA and he’s got an extensive, uh, professional background. Amit did some consulting work with Booz Allen Hamilton back in the day, and then he did several years with Aon and with ADP, both where he gained a great deal of, of valuable business experience and has also been, uh, with one of our competitor, uh, ben admin firms as well, uh, prior to coming to bswift. And he joined us just in July of this year. So, brand new to bswift. And Amit, welcome aboard. How are you?

    Thank you, Don. I am, I’m fantastic. Great to be here.

    Good. Well, we look forward to learning a lot from you today, uh, about the business at bswift and your background. But before we jump into kind of some of the business questions we have prepared for you today, I wanted to just ask you tell us a little bit about you personally. What are some things that the listeners may not know about you?

    Yeah, that’s a great question actually, Don. So, uh, there’s probably not one, there’s probably multiple things, but, uh, let me, lemme try to focus in on one and, and tell me if you want more. Okay. Sure thing. Uh, so, uh, so hey, uh, you know, I have always enjoyed playing racquet sports. Alright? Uh, uh, I played a ton of badminton growing up and then, uh, you know, played a ton of racquet ball. And I’d say for the last 10 years or so, I’ve played a lot of squash, right? Because my son, who’s, uh, currently a freshman in college was training competitively for squash. And, uh, you know, I was kind of his coach for a while. And then, you know, once it got to a point where he was starting to beat me, I was like, uh, that can’t happen. I’m super competitive as well, and I would do anything at the risk of injuring my body, uh, to not fall into that defeat.

    So, uh, you know, uh, while it was a ton of fun, it did come with a bunch of downsides. So I developed, uh, chronic inflammation in my right shoulder, uh, and I tried all kinds of things. I went to physical therapy, I did a whole bunch of icing and, uh, I tried acupuncture, but, you know, it was all temporary. It never really fully healed, right? And I’m one of those, uh, you know, guys who believes in like self-healing. I don’t believe in surgeries, all that stuff. So, uh, eventually I came across this book and it’s called What Doesn’t Kill Us, right? It’s about this guy, his name is Wim Hof. Uh, he’s also known as the Ice Man. If you look him up on YouTube, you’ll find a ton of videos about him. And, uh, I know, uh, Sharon’s nodding her head, so she probably knows him, uh, but he is, uh, like, he’s a guru on, uh, on cold therapy.

    He’s done a bunch of work on it. And, uh, he talks about all the benefits of cold exposure, right? Including reduction in inflammation, uh, stronger immunity, et cetera. And, and this guy’s pretty credible. Like, he’s, he’s run a marathon in the Arctic Circle. He has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro shirtless. So, uh, he’s credible. Okay, . Uh, so I was like, what do I have to lose? I’m gonna give it a shot. I love it. . Okay. So I did give it a shot. Uh, this is back when Covid was going on. I was like, Hey, I got, you know, I got, I’m at home, so I got tons of time to do whatever I want to do, . And I started experimenting with, uh, cold showers every morning. And it has been phenomenal. Uh, wow. You know, uh, that’s awesome. The inflammation in my body is like down to nothing. Uh, you know, I feel super energized every morning, uh, and, uh, you know, I still have to challenge myself every day before I kind of jump into that shower, because no matter how many times you do it, you still have to muster up the courage to say, okay, I’m gonna do this one more time. Okay. Uh, but once you get into it, it’s amazing. And, uh, and I wouldn’t exchange it for anything else.

    Yeah, my son, I love that my son has been trying to convince me to do that, and I haven’t gotten up the courage yet, but one day. Well, it’s funny.

    So it’s so, but it’s like 60 seconds or something, or, you know, something like that. I don’t know.

    If this my first shower I’d do it for, this is 5, 10, 15 minutes. Look, it’s only the first 10 or 15 seconds that are tough after that, it’s like cruise control. Now, I can go, I don’t know, I can go as long as I want.

    That is, so I’m familiar with Wim Hof because he also does like the breath work techniques, and so I’ve gotten as far as Wim Hof breath, um, work. But yeah, gosh, the cold showers is a struggle. Um, and it’s funny, Amit, Ted, actually, our CEO told me this at one of our sales outings a few days ago that when, you know, you and him were on a walk together in the cold, frigid Chicago streets, you were wearing, you know, just a regular shirt, and he looked at you and was like, aren’t you going to be cold? And you have done so much cold therapy that that’s, you know, you were totally fine, which I think is amazing. Um, probably something that I, I should, I should start. But, uh, speaking of Ted and bswift, I wanted to ask you, you know, you, you’ve been at bswift since the summer so far. What is your favorite part of your job at bswift?

    Yeah, so, uh, uh, so it only took, uh, a couple of degrees in computer science and, uh, a job in Motorola to kind of realize that I was in the wrong profession, uh, which is, uh, which is software development . Uh, and, uh, you know, I’m, I’m so glad I realized it early in my career and decided to switch tracks and, uh, and jump into client service. So that’s kind of what, uh, abandoned for a really long time now, Sharon. So, uh, I’d say, uh, the one thing that I’m really, really passionate about is client service. And what does that mean? That means working with our clients to understand their challenges, uh, and how we can solve them at bswift. Uh, so that’s, that’s the favorite part of my job. I I love working with the teams to solve those challenges for our clients. And I must say I feel super lucky in that respect because we have some really, really talented people here at bswift. Uh, and then lastly, as a former engineer, uh, you know, that gene of building things is fully entrenched within me, and I am super energized by our mission of simplifying benefits and becoming the preeminent benefits administrator in our industry.

    Yeah, I, I love that. And I think you’re right. You’ve got a great team behind you. There are so many stars at bswift, um, and they just really love to be good partners to our clients. And so, um, I love that. You know, I do think that we have such an interesting, we’re in, we’re in an interesting environment. We’ve come off the heels of COVID. Um, I think we’re kind of settling in into the new, um, working environment, you know, what are some of the things that you think COOs in our industry are challenged by, and how do you plan to address those industry challenges at bswift?

    Yeah, I’d say, uh, the biggest challenge for any COO in our industry is consistently delivering awesome service to our clients, right? And I think it’s that word consistent, which is the most important one because, you know, there can be, uh, there can be periods of excellent delivery and then periods where it’s not sustained, which doesn’t really help our clients. The reason that our clients, uh, outsource benefits administration is because they, uh, they want us to do it, and they want us to frankly, do a better job than they might have been able to do before. So it’s, it’s really about that consistency in delivering quality, which I think is the most important aspect of this. Uh, and, uh, and, and I think, uh, really it comes down to having the right combination of people, process, and technology in order to deliver that perfect solution to our clients, right? And that’s, that’s what I shoot for, that’s what we aim for at b. So f we strive to deploy the right teams, which are comprised of benefits experts with a true passion for client service supported by process optimization teams are, and our innovative technology platform to deliver that perfect blend, right? So that’s, that’s, I think that’s, that’s really the biggest challenge. And, and that’s kinda how I, I think about solving that.

    Well, that’s an awesome vision, and, and you know, I mean, I, I can see just in the few months you’ve been with us, uh, your fingerprints all over the organization in the way that, that, that the, um, you know, the things like people, processes and technology are being, um, advanced at, at bswift and the delivery to our customers is, is great. And, and you’re, you’re really making an impact. You know, one of the things that we do at bswift was for years we focused on core values. One of our core values is higher standards. And what I’d like to understand, Amit, is how do you see the, the value of higher standards applying to, uh, client services at bswift?

    Yeah, great question, Don. So in my mind, it all starts with having a really deep understanding of client health and then translating in, you know, what that means in terms of objectives for each of our teams. So as our CEO Ted Bloomberg, uh, you know, often says, we don’t want any watermelons at bswift. So these are clients who are green on the outside and red on the inside. And I think that is so true, right? So, uh, a first step is truly understanding client health. And in order to do that effectively, we have deployed a client engagement framework. Uh, you know, as a part of it, we have assigned executive sponsors to majority of our clients. Uh, and as a part of this, uh, these executive sponsors and our client teams are checking in with the clients, uh, on a routine basis to understand not only how they’re feeling about our partnership, but also what we can do, uh, in collaboration with them to elevate our partnership to the next level.

    So, uh, so that’s, uh, that’s, I, I’d say that’s, that’s the first thing. The second thing is, uh, you know, uh, this is being supplemented, uh, by very clear operational targets around timeliness and accuracy, which is what eventually quality boils down to for each of our teams, including client services, centers of excellence, and our service center. Right? Um, and I’d say lastly, people health also plays a huge part in this. And, uh, you know, knowledgeable and engaged people really lead to happy clients. So we are always monitoring people health and investing in it. So, uh, those, uh, that’s kind of how I see, uh, higher standards for client service. Uh, the one other thing I would add, potentially there is, uh, you know, our, our client teams are also, uh, consistently working with our clients to understand what features and functionalities, uh, they’re looking forward to in our product updates, and then collaborating with our tech teams in order to have those come to fruition.

    Yep. So what I see is a, a lot of a common thread running through basically everything you described there, Amit, I think is, is communication and establishing wonderful communication with clients, getting their feedback, understanding where they are, meeting their needs, where they’re at and so on, is, um, sounds like, um, a, a, a core area for you. Um, now another one of our values is greater accountability. So we think about setting high standards as one component of delivering great service. How do you envision greater accountability, uh, within your teams and, and how do we deliver that?

    Yeah. Uh, I think it, again, all starts with having a very clear understanding that our clients are our North Star, and that everything we do needs to tie back to them, right? Uh, and that is followed by setting very clear operational targets. Again, uh, like I said before, for each of our teams, uh, around turnaround times for cases for tickets, uh, service center levels, service levels, customer satisfaction scores, uh, and eventually client health, right? And then giving our teams visibility into how they’re doing relative to those targets. Uh, so my team and I are constantly looking at how we are doing, uh, you know, based on these, uh, uh, operational metrics and identifying areas of opportunity. Uh, and then lastly, we, we have a culture where we encourage our client teams to raise their hands and ask for help. Uh, we have built some amazing process improvement and internal consulting capabilities that allow us to address suboptimized processes and escalated situations quickly, and course correct. We all know that benefits administration is a tough business, and, uh, there are, uh, times and situations when, uh, there is a need for, uh, uh, a SWAT team to be quickly brought in and for situations to be course corrected. Uh, so, uh, you know, uh, we love, we don’t, uh, we don’t expect, uh, that our client teams would never have any issues. We encourage them to just ask for help whenever they need it.

    That makes a lot of sense, Amit. And I think the third pillar is, of course, as you know, more fun. Um, and I think that is a huge way that we elevate our partnership is of course, by adding that, you know, added layer of fun. How do you develop that, um, in the relationships that we have with our clients?

    Absolutely. Uh, you gotta have fun along the way, right? Yes,

    Hey, we love, uh, we love to forge, uh, deep connections with our clients, and we do that in several ways, Sharon. So, uh, our team members, uh, really get to know our clients. Uh, they’re interacting with them, uh, you know, every day, every week. And through those interactions, uh, they develop some really strong ties with the clients, uh, you know, including knowing their birthdays, their names of family members, pets, and favorite football teams. Uh, we also like to meet vast majority of our clients in person for at least one stewardship meeting every year, and celebrate our successes together. So those are a couple of ways. You know, we like to, we like to have fun, uh, fun along the way, develop those relationships and, uh, uh, and, and, you know, and, and, and, and really make this, uh, uh, you know, an enjoyable, uh, exercise for our clients and for us, uh, similarly, we also have a tremendous culture of recognition and comradery internally.

    Uh, so this annual enrollment, we launched an internal program called Mission bPossible with the sole objective of delivering an awesome AE for our clients. And, and this was supplemented by, you know, sending bswift swag to our people, uh, calling out people who went above and beyond in weekly recognition meetings, uh, including Talks with Ted, All Hands meeting, team standups. So all kinds of forums. Uh, and, and, and we love doing that. We, we want to keep our, our people engaged, and energy’s high is, especially as we go through, uh, uh, this time of annual enrollment, and it’s amazing to see how people come together, uh, with one objective, uh, which is all about servicing our clients as best as we can.

    Yeah, it makes perfect sense, right? We, you know, you can’t breed a fun environment just with the clients. It has to come from a deep culture of fun and, you know, recognition and, um, all of those things that you’ve mentioned that happen internally, you know, when we’re having fun as an organization and with each other as, as teammates, that really perpetuates that energy into our chi, our client and, and partner relationships. Um, so, so I love that, and I can attest to it. We do have, you know, we do a good job of having fun on the bswift side, um, and people spend a ton of time at work, right? They, so it’s important as they work with us that we’re making it, you know, as you’ve said, operationally as painless as possible. But we also are working day in and day out with these people because of, they’ve accepted us as an extension of their team.

    You mentioned earlier, they choose to work with bswift so that we can hopefully deliver something, um, at a, at a level that could be better than what another vendor or they could do themselves. And so we’re really an extension of our clients. Um, and so as we spend all of that time with them, it’s so important to make sure that we’re, you know, breeding that great fun, um, partnering relationship. So I, I just, I love and appreciate that, uh, that excites me about bswift, but I’m curious, Amit, what, uh, excites you the most about bswift of, you know, today current state, and then as you look into the future of bswift, what excites you the most now and, and down the line?

    Yes, absolutely. Uh, so, uh, I’m super excited, uh, Sharon, with how annual enrollment has gone, uh, so far. We have been firing in all cylinders. Uh, we, uh, recruited, uh, more than 700 customer service reps in our call center, uh, in preparation and more than a hundred people in our client services organization to deliver for our clients this annual enrollment. And I’m really proud to say that, you know, approximately 90% of our clients have been in green status going into their annual enrollment, uh, windows. And, uh, our call center, uh, delivery has been phenomenal as well. Uh, we have answered more than 88% of the calls in less than 30 seconds with a 94% customer satisfaction based on 25,000 surveys. I know I threw a lot of stats at you, but you know, what I’m really trying to say is our, our teams are doing an excellent job for our clients, and I haven’t seen this kind of call center performance anywhere else in this industry so far in my career. So that makes me super proud and super excited.

    We are, we’re proud of you, um, and, and, and of your team. You know, it really does start at the top of the leadership, but it does trickle down in, into the whole team. And you have a, a, a wonderful leader there and Eric Strom in, in, in our service center operation. And the, the accomplishments of the team has been truly impressive. So congratulations.

    Absolutely, Don. And, uh, and I’m super excited about the future as well. As we kinda look towards the future, we are continuing to invest a ton in our business. Uh, we are always looking for talented people, so welcome any candidates looking for the next opportunity in their career, uh, to reach out. Uh, we are also deploying our latest and greatest technology to all our clients, including re-implementing them where we have some gaps. Uh, and, uh, and lastly, investing a ton in product innovation, leveraging artificial intelligence across the board, redefining employee experience, working with our clients, pursuing real time integration with carriers. So there is a ton for us to be excited about.

    That’s great stuff. And thinking about the future too, that Sharon alluded to, one of the things we have coming up, uh, early next year, every year we hold an annual client conference called Idea Exchange. This year will be in Palm Springs, California. It’ll be a wonderful venue. Uh, so that’s coming up and an opportunity for our clients to get together with us and rub shoulders and learn from each other and so on. Uh, what are you anticipating coming out of or going into Idea exchange for 2024?

    I think it’s gonna be an amazing opportunity for our clients to get a sneak peek into bswift Labs, uh, which is all innovation that our tech teams have been working on, uh, and also meet with our bswift team members and, and with other clients. Uh, I am truly excited about, uh, our keynote speaker, Allison Levine, who is, uh, who led the first American Women’s Expedition to Mount Everest. I can’t wait to hear her talk.

    Let’s not take this cold therapy to the next level. Okay, , we need, we need you here at bswift Dam. Sorry, we need you here.

    I might have to sign up for, uh, one of our future events!

    That’s good. Uh, and, and of course it wouldn’t be a bswift event without a good party. So I know the clients, uh, had a lot of fun last year and gave us a 10 on 10, uh, and, uh, uh, I know they were also responsible for handpicking the location this year, which is, uh, an amazing venue in Palm Springs, California, uh, from April 9th to 11th. Uh, so please mark your calendars and we would love to see you all there.

    That’s awesome, Amit. Well, listen, this has been a wonderful conversation. I’ve learned, uh, some great nuggets from you. I’ve, you know, just to recap a couple things that caught my attention as we were talking, you know, the idea of no watermelons is, is something that, that we talk about often at bswift. I think that’s kind of something we can anchor on, uh, mission bpossible, and the accomplishments of your team this last fall has been amazing. Uh, your, your comment about clients are the North Star, I think that’s just something you could just really set in stone and say that’s, that’s really something to lean on. Um, you know, your comments about people health and setting, uh, you know, targets that matter to their customers and our ae results we’ve had and all these things. Man, we’ve learned a lot from you today and, uh, it’s been really enjoyable. Um, Sharon, uh, anything else you want to highlight that you picked up from the discussion today?

    You know, Don, that was a great summary, and I think the only thing I would add is that it all kind of bubbles down to how bswift plans to elevate our partnerships with our clients and really deliver the best, you know, tech Ben admin and service experience that they, you know, that’s in the, that’s in the market. And so I, you know, I’m super energized at the end of this call because I, I can see it all unfolding internally and hopefully it’s something that our clients are seeing and feeling. So, uh, yeah, this is, this is great. And, um, to, to echo you, hopefully we get to see a lot of folks in person at Idea Exchange.

    Awesome. I’m looking forward to that.

    Okay, well, great stuff and thank you so much for your time, Amit, today. It’s been really great to visit with you and, uh, looking forward to great things coming from your team going forward into the future.

    Same here, Don and Sharon. Thank you for having me.

    About Amit Jain

    Amit has over 25 years of executive operational experience in benefits administration, management consulting and human capital management. He is responsible for service operations and delivery at bswift and has a proven track record of operational success in benefits administration. Prior to joining bswift, Amit served as COO at Businessolver delivering significant operational transformation and business results. Amit holds a master’s degree in computer science from Case Western Reserve University and an MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

    The views expressed by guests of the bWise podcast series are theirs alone and not endorsed by nor necessarily reflect the views of bswift, its affiliates or their employees. The podcast recordings and all rights are owned and retained by bswift. Reproduction, duplication or reposting of podcasts or any portion thereof without the express written consent of bswift is prohibited.
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