The Crossover: When Cancer and Salesforce Collide

This blog has an unusual name because at the time I started it, I didn’t want to commit to blogging about a single topic. I decided I was going to write about my experiences with cancer, perhaps some genealogy and a little Salesforce. The cancer story got to ten chapters before my goals changed and suddenly I was only blogging about Salesforce. I guess it was inevitable that the two topics I had kept so separate would eventually collide.

The inspiring client – a rare thing indeed

After some time spent focusing on career development, I started working on a Service Cloud implementation project in December 2017. The client is a private medical insurer based in the UK. It’s not like any other medical insurer; this one offers much more than just insurance. It offers a vision to make people healthier that sets it apart from the competition; it taps into the human psyche of gratification through reward and gamifies the process of getting healthy. They’re smart, they focus on people, not even just customers and employees, but real people, with real things going on in their lives. They are compassionate, maybe a little (appropriately) strict, but they have been a source of inspiration to me this last week. Of course, you should totally ask me again at the end of the project!

The Contact Centre

We spent a few weeks with several different contact centre teams, learning about claims management, personal details, their current pain points; their complaints process. They have a lot they need to change; much of their information is saved in pop-up messages that just get ignored. They have to wend their way through more systems than they should in as little time as possible, so they know exactly where to look for the right data, they know how to get to things and all the while they’re listening, taking notes, remembering things and delivering compassionate service at the same time. It’s like driving a car. I was in awe as I sat with one of their agents to watch him set up a new claim and deal with an invoice query.


BPR-ing so hard right now


It is one thing to implement an IT system; it is quite another to experience how that system is going to be used. It really brought Service Cloud to life for me. It also made me realise just what an enormous change we are about to bring to their ways of working.

Personal vs Professional

Suddenly, after a busy Christmas break seeing family and passing certification exams, I found myself in a business process review session with the special care team. These are the people who deal with high-value and long-term claims – cardiac, psychiatric and oncology claims. I knew, of course, that we would be speaking to this team and documenting their user stories. I’d been introducing myself to each of the other teams using Story, Point, Relevance (SPR), explaining that I was excited to be working with them so that I could learn about how it works from the other side, having been a regular user of private medical insurance for several years.

Giving away your personal life experiences could be misconstrued as unprofessional, but at Bluewolf we’re encouraged (trained!) to be bold and leave a memorable experience, so I took the plunge. I had an experience that was relevant and meant I could contribute in a special way, why not use it. That’s not to say that I didn’t feel exposed while I was doing it, but my heart tells me it was the right thing to do.

What I didn’t realise was that in one day, I was about to be transported back to 2013 and that it would deeply affect me on a very personal level for the rest of the week.

We Care

It started with a fantastic group of warm, bubbly and intelligent people. They introduced themselves, we introduced ourselves (I used SPR straight away). Their director began the session by giving us an overview of what they do; the various team divisions and the measures they take to ensure a strong balance between astute cost management and compassionate care for the patients they insure. As they started to talk about how they work with oncology patients, I could feel that personal connection just strengthen. They talked about the importance of making it easy for people to make a claim, tracking their diagnoses and treatment and understanding the person’s emotional response to their situation – their life-changing illness.

As they went on I tried so hard not to feel emotional, but it was tough. They give out special treats for patients will serious illnesses; I also discovered that there’s a lot going on behind the scenes when you’re that ill. They’re talking to hospitals, doctors, family members – you name it – all without the sick person even knowing that they’re doing all this for them. They know a lot about these conditions and typical approaches to treatment. They attend conferences to learn about the latest research. Many of them are nurses, so they also check and approve drug use. And of course, they save money for their company, that’s important, but not of paramount importance. They are ultimately carers, always backstage, but making sure everything is in place for things to go off without a hitch.


As they described everything they do, including little things they do for the patient to support them – such as a little spa break – I felt a little sad that my own insurer didn’t seem to have the same attitude at the time I was ill. They confirmed that they often get Facebook friend requests, flowers and gifts from their patients as they recover – just an idea of the impact their work has on a daily basis. This goes way beyond putting the customer at the centre of the business – this is about putting humanity first.

Of course, what was going to happen throughout the remainder of our sessions with them was that we’d end up going through multiple scenarios – including my own, real-life example – to understand their process and pain points. I’d already let the cat out of the bag so I decided I was going to use the experience from the other side to get information. Chemo, surgery, biological drugs (Herceptin), radiotherapy fractions, follow-ups, echos, CT scans, X-Rays – all of this needs tracking in Salesforce and I was actually, in a way, so humbled to find myself in a position where I could turn that incredibly HUGE, negative experience I had into something that would inspire a positive change for this business.

Suddenly it’s not just Service Cloud any more…

I’ve always said throughout my own cancer treatment that all these people – doctors, surgeons, counsellors, nurses, porters, receptionists, radiographers, the case manager at the insurance company and your GP are such very special, caring people. They work together every day, often never meeting, to help people recover and live. Together, they work to save your life. Sadly they don’t always succeed, but they’ll still support you to the end. It takes a very compassionate kind of person who chooses to take on a carer’s job and they’ll say “it’s my job”. But it’s MY life. It’s the lives of the people they support. What struck me at the client was that these individual people completely know, understand and live that every single day.

Suddenly I’m not just implementing Service Cloud any more. I’m doing so much more than that. I’m part of a team that is going to transform this company’s working practices so that they can focus even more on the people they look after. I’ll have to be very careful to ensure I don’t get emotionally involved in the work itself and leave myself open to criticism; on the flip side, I’d like to think it’s made me even more passionate about doing a good job. Making sure we design the new processes with the people who’ll be using the system firmly in our thoughts, whether they’re resolving a complaint, or processing a claim for a knee injury, or letting someone cry on the phone as they discover they’re about to go through the most terrifying experience of their life and bending over backwards to help them with the cover so they can focus on getting better.

That’s what’s the most important of all the important things. We’re not machines, we deserve Life. This project is where two of the three biggest experiences in my life meet.



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