Shirley Bryant’s official job title may be security and safety technician, but for one elderly member who prefers to pay her insurance premiums in person at the Chattanooga home office, Shirley is BlueCross.
“When she comes in to make her payment, she’ll wait until I’m available,” Shirley says with a smile. “She won’t let anyone else take her money. She’ll say, ‘Well, I’ll just wait on Shirley.’ She’s been doing that for years, and I’m just happy she trusts me and wants to see me.”
Receiving payments is just one part of Shirley’s job. At her office entrance post, Shirley greets members and visitors, answers the telephone, and schedules meeting rooms. Her safety and security responsibilities include creating and issuing badges for employees, contractors, and board members.“At the front desk, you are the face of the company, and I’m the first business contact for the organization,” she says.
“A first impression is a lasting one and you don’t get a second chance. I want to give a good impression and represent the company well.”
For Shirley, the key to success in her role is the ability to multitask with a smile and a helpful attitude.
‘This is a good fit’
Shirley has represented BlueCross for 37 years, beginning with clerical work-study programs and part-time work while in high school and college at Chattanooga State. She joined as a full-time employee in 1984, working in word processing.
From there, she advanced to the records department, reception and claims. In 2006, she moved to her current position.
Making the best of the pandemic
Like other businesses, BlueCross has sharply altered its practices to keep employees and members safe from COVID-19. For Shirley, that means no visitors to welcome, few badges to issue, no conference rooms to schedule and no payments to receive. (In-person payments are now placed in a lobby drop box.)
Though she now spends less time working the front desk, she’s sharpening her professional skills via online learning opportunities.
“One of great benefits BlueCross offers is virtual classes for employees,” says Shirley, who so far has enrolled in business etiquette, unconscious bias and Excel courses, among others. “I’m just trying to learn everything I can.”
That extends to her personal life, as well. During the summer quarantine, she rediscovered an old favorite hobby.
“I bought a piano, and I’m using an app to relearn how to play,” she says. “I only play for myself and my husband now right now, but I hope to play for church or a band in the future.”
Setting the right tone
Shirley makes a point to practice the BlueCross mission to serve members and provide peace of mind through better health with every interaction at the company headquarters.
“I see myself as an ambassador for the company. When members, walk-ins or guests come to the front desk, I give peace of mind by not only helping them, but also creating a friendly environment and delivering the best welcoming experience that I can.”
She adds, “As I interact with the public, I hope to set the tone for what’s inside the company. That way, when they come they know, ‘We’re going to meet some great people at BlueCross, because we just got started off right at the front desk.’”
A life of service
As indicated by her desire to play piano in her church one day, outside of work Shirley’s interests revolve around her deep faith. These include reading and studying the Bible, and attending a women’s Bible study group each Monday.
“My passion is loving God and obeying Him, and everything I do stems from that,” she says.
Service is a theme that runs through Shirley’s life, whether at home with her husband or at work.
“What gets me up in the morning is to be able to help somebody along the way,” she says. “Whether they’re hurting or just need a hand, I want to be there for them. We have a lot of walk-ins, and some are frustrated by claims they don’t understand. Helping them by answering their questions, giving them a smile or a kind word, or simply saying goodbye so they know they are acknowledged, can mean so much to a person.”
“That, to me, is a great day and keeps me going.”