Using the Bonfire Training Experience in Daily Life: Excellence in Practice

Tags: Case Study,Investing in Customer Service Training,Call Center Training,Employee Engagement
Apr 25, 2018

To understand corporate culture at Healthcare Resource Group (HRG) and the mindset of Jason Coffin, HRG’s vice president of OutPartnering, we want to introduce you first to a building. Operated by the city of Spokane, CenterPlace Regional Event Center is the premier local event facility for organizations to hold banquets, conferences and other events. It is a modern, well-designed space with large, sunny windows and attractive landscaping.


The site is within walking distance of HRG, Jason told us, and a no-brainer when it came to planning sessions with Bonfire Training. Jason explained, to get the best results it was important to have a comfortable, uncluttered space where his team could learn without the interruptions that training within the confines of the company’s headquarters would inevitably present. He rented the space for every training. It was important.


This story began in 2012, when Jason joined HRG from Northwest Farm Credit Services, where he participated in his first Bonfire Training experience. In fact, the training made such a difference to company culture that he felt it would definitely improve communication skills among staff at HRG. Completing Bonfire Training’s signature Customer Service Essentials, HRG reported huge strides in the development of systematized, effective communication skills not only with the self-pay insurance patients with whom they interacted, but among HRG team members, as well. The emphasis on positive reinforcement, authenticity, and the importance of recognizing individual differences and talents quickly resonated company-wide.


Following their initial success, HRG again hosted Bonfire Training in 2015, 2017, and 2018, where professional trainer Desirae Haynes provided refresher courses and continuing education for existing staff and new hires. She focused on customer service as well as leadership, conflict resolution and coaching skills. Rather than being just a trainer with a “one-size-fits-all” PowerPoint presentation, Jason described Desirae as a real expert, not only in the skills she brought to the table, but in tailoring the information to apply specifically to HRG employees. Every skill, every possible scenario, and every issue was personalized to fit with the real-life situations an HRG staff member could be expected to encounter. In that way, Ms. Haynes became an “instant best friend” to everyone in the training, Jason reported. And without a PowerPoint!


“We found people enjoyed each training and demonstrated remarkable skill acquisition too,” Jason says. “Our approach also reinforced what we learned with Bonfire Training by implementing regular coaching for our employees later on, so team members could learn these new techniques, and then receive feedback and help implementing them over time.”


Trainer Desirae Haynes confirmed this approach. “HRG has done an excellent job of incorporating the techniques into their daily routine. Their efforts have not only improved the level of service they provide to their customers but through their embracing of the techniques, they have made a positive change in their culture as well.”


Indeed, Jason recently arranged for Desirae to return. This time, she taught specialized courses in credit and collections for the group handling interactions with insurance companies directly, rather than with patient collections. Unlike contact with patients, in which HRG emphasizes a medical cost counselor approach, these communications required an entirely different set of skills. In working directly with insurance companies, HRG team members had to utilize a “colleague to colleague” communication style to ensure success within one interaction. Problems and needs were entirely different than those common in handling the individual patient. Solutions were different too. Luckily, Ms. Haynes covered them all.


It’s a lot to learn, and yet the staff at HRG has fully integrated the lessons of Bonfire Training into their larger corporate culture. How do they do it? Jason offers the following tips to ensure your company’s training experience remains a daily practice, rather than an annual event.


  • Include everyone in the training. Management as well as customer service staff must participate, not only to stay abreast of what’s being taught, but to reinforce the idea that these are top-down lessons in appropriate communication.


  • Add in refresher courses and regular internal coaching to the mix. Give your team opportunities to apply their new skills, and get regular feedback on how to improve. Desirae Haynes reports that not only did HRG create “cheat sheet” cards for each staff member on particular skill sets, but they made poster-size charts to hang around the office to remind team members on different approaches to various customer service scenarios.


  • Create an 85/15 rule. No matter how enthusiastic the employee, or how committed they are to the company, criticism can be hard to take, especially in a review. So include the good stuff when coaching a team member. What is the employee doing right? What have they improved upon since last time? For Jason Coffin, a father of four, this approach is essential in not only getting a team where they need to be, but in raising his kids as well. “Everyone needs to know they are valued and appreciated at every point in the learning process,” he says.


  • Set aside the time and space to do the job right. Whether it’s renting an event space, or planning the right schedule, it’s essential in making sure employees learn what they’re supposed to learn, and have fun doing it. Furthermore, having the correct supplies on hand and an appropriate space lets your staff know this is something management takes seriously. The skills taught are not a one-time deal. They’re mission critical to success.


It’s that commitment to learning, with a clear intention and demonstrated follow-through that says everything you need to know about Healthcare Resource Group’s experiences with Bonfire Training. It’s not a surprise their team reports that they continue to reap benefits on a day-to-day basis from their coursework. And for Jason? It’s just another ordinary day at HRG, an employee-owned company where every staff member is an owner in the business.


 “In the end,” he says,” we answer to each other. That’s why the training company we use has to be good and integrate our culture.”