Family is a natural connective tissue. For Nikki White, consumer expert in dental services at BlueCross, those bonds cannot be broken and are fortified with the passage of time.
In 2007, Nikki moved with her parents and siblings from Rochester Hills, Mich. to Columbia, Tenn., and then on to Chattanooga to help her father, a pastor, realize his dream of building a new church. Not long after, her extended family migrated to Tennessee, as well.
“When I say family came down, I mean everyone,” Nikki says. “My parents, brothers, sisters, aunts, grandparents, they all came here to help with the church. All it took was one Christmas visit where we were able to grill outside, and by the spring everyone had moved here. We love Chattanooga. Compared to Michigan, we have four seasons we can actually enjoy.”
Nikki’s own busy household includes 10-year-old son Kingston, 8-year-old daughter Kristian and husband Jeremy. She’s been with BlueCross since 2012, and that same sense of family connectivity is what Nikki aspires to create when taking calls from members – and placing some on their behalf.
Completing the ‘homework’ for members
In her role as a consumer expert, Nikki provides customer service for members and providers who have questions or concerns regarding their dental plans, benefits and claims. One of the joys of her job is seldom having to transfer calls. She likes being the one person needed to help a member from start to finish.
“I live to help, especially when it comes to helping someone resolve an issue,” Nikki says. “When members call our team, they’re dealing with an actual live person. When you’re explaining benefits or going over a claim, that personal interaction is so much easier to understand than just getting a piece of paper in the mail. We often have to look into matters for the member and place calls to doctors’ offices on their behalf.”
“Members often can’t believe how much we’re able to do for them. I’ll say, ‘The only thing I can’t do is take your money.’”
Nikki comes to her passion for helping others – and dental plan members specifically – naturally. Her mom was a dental assistant for years when Nikki was growing up in Michigan, and Nikki is a registered dental assistant herself.
“My mom did the fillings in my mouth – they’re holding on strong,” Nikki says with a laugh. “If one of my kids starts complaining about a toothache, we’re both like, ‘Open your mouth, let me see!’ So when I had the opportunity to come to BlueCross and be involved with dentistry while helping others, it was the best of both worlds.”
Right place, right time, ‘Right Here’
In the fall, Nikki was introduced to yet another world: representing BlueCross in an advertising campaign. She currently appears in one of three BlueCross “Right Here” commercials airing on television.
Before participating in the September filming, she had no previous on-camera experience, and her role grew from a voiceover audition to being the final face seen on screen.
“My supervisor, Becky Cooke, told me about the campaign and encouraged me to read for what I thought was just going to be the use of someone’s voice,” Nikki remembers. “I had no plans to be front and center.”
Becky, on the other hand, knew Nikki would be a natural and resonate with viewers.
“Nikki transitioned to dental from the medical side earlier this year, and I immediately saw something in her that I had seen in very few consumer experts in the past,” Becky says. “She has the ability to pick up on members who had a speaking disability or trouble communicating. Nikki is very polished and empathetic and is always very positive in her attitude and tone. She makes a great impression on our members and the team.”
She made an impression on the “Right Here” production team, as well.
“When I was called back and asked to come to the Chattanooga office, I was surprised by the elaborate set-up for filming,” Nikki says. “There were cameras, boom mics, lighting, and people everywhere. And they were on a tight schedule! I was asked to speak a couple of different lines several different ways, whatever felt most comfortable for me. We knocked everything out within an hour.”
Nikki delivered her closing line – “And if you need anything else, we’ll be right here” – roughly 30 different ways, with little variations here and there.“I went in with the thought of, ‘Well, just be you,’” she says.
“I was really nervous because I thought they were going to hate my voice. And they were moving us all around, switching people out in front of the camera. The directors asked me to tilt my head a bit, to smile, to keep my eyebrows from scrunching – there were a lot of instructions delivered very quickly. It was fun, but I thought for sure I would just be in a background shot.”
Fast forward three months, and Nikki’s still getting messages from Facebook friends or from Jeremy’s extended family asking if that is indeed her on TV.
“We just got married in July, so I’m still meeting a lot of his family,” she says. “They’ll ask him, ‘Did I just see your wife in a commercial?’”
Connected as ever, Nikki’s immediate family members are also enjoying seeing her time in the spotlight.
“Even my grandmother called and said, ‘Nikki-poo, I always said you were my superstar,’” she says. “It’s like her dream came true. I’m just glad I was able to make her smile.”
Telling her own story
Outside of customer service, commercial shoots and crafting pound cakes with her mom, a small business owner, Nikki devotes what little free time she has toward a project that’s close to her heart. She calls herself a PK – “preacher’s kid” – and that background is informing a book she’s writing – part memoir, part biography of her father.
“My father had a fourth grade education until he went to seminary,” Nikki says. “He struggled to read for many years, and as a young child, I never knew. I just thought he liked for me to read his mail to him. So this book will be my view of my father and his journey to starting his own church, and how his story became my story and my family’s story, as well.”
“The story is far from over, but it’s at a place where I’m ready to share it.”