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Danielle Powers – DentalPlans.com
Insurance has long been a point of contention for American consumers, but DentalPlans.com, a private, web-based dental savings plan and insurance marketer, seeks to take the frustration out of smile protection. The dedication of its approximately 100 employees is critical to maintaining customer trust and satisfaction. Among them, Danielle Powers, the company’s general counsel, plays an important role in facilitating communication, brand protection and legal compliance.
Powers graduated with her juris doctor degree from Loyola University’s Chicago School of Law in 2007, adding to previous academic accomplishments: a bachelor’s degree in biology and environmental studies as well as a master’s in public administration. She worked as a paralegal in law firms before taking the dive into law school. Upon passing the Illinois Bar Exam in 2008, she went in-house as opposed to the more typical private firm route.
Keeping the lines open
Over her eight years of experience as an in-house counsel — including nearly four with DentalPlans.com — Powers has honed her talent for keeping lines of communication open that offers an advantage in her current position. Her dedication to building relationships with her colleagues and strategic partners is particularly helpful considering she works for the Plantation, Florida-based business from her home in Chicago much of the time.
She chalks some of her success up to a bright and welcoming personality; the rest is by design. “I’m not the typical lawyer,” she explains. “I like to get to know everyone. I really enjoy going to our office in Florida and connecting.”
Powers is typically in the office three or four days every month. While she’s there, she checks in with colleagues, stopping by to say hello and catch up with their respective projects. “It gets me out of my home office, but it also helps me reconnect, let them know I’m on their team and that if I insert myself it’s for good reason, not because I’m a pain. I’m not pesky, but being around and being present is important. I’m friendly, but with a purpose: I can get a sense of what people are working on without trying to totally insert myself in the process,” Powers says.
The result of these efforts is that colleagues know Powers is available to them and are aware of when it’s important for her to be involved with a project or decision. Other members of management are proactive about getting her attention when it’s needed.
The more structured side of the coin is comprised of scheduled connections, particularly a weekly meeting with senior staff. “Everybody runs through the laundry list of priorities for them and their teams,” Powers elaborates. “I usually get tip offs of what’s brewing in those meetings — that tends to be the first line of something going on that I should be involved in.”
Active risk reduction
Powers’ open lines of communication keep her ahead of the game in making sure DentalPlans.com remains compliant with the law. Her regular meetings and check-ins with colleagues allow her to research and prepare for changes to company policies and new initiatives.
“Right now I’m doing a lot of risk management and record retention,” she explains. “I’m also dealing a lot with cross-functional items with our information technology [IT] team, such as data privacy, data security. Those come up a lot, which is not unique to any company, but really for the first time we’re tackling that in a cross-department kind of way and taking a fresh look at things.”
In these initiatives, she is grateful for the support of DentalPlans.com’s parent company. This partnership offers a number of ways to add value to programs, particularly in training. Current tech-related initiatives include formalizing procedures, including policies as seemingly minor as email retention all the way up to training employees how to recognize and avoid serious cyber-security threats.
On a more general scale, Powers views training as a critical tool to keeping a company compliant. She leads the way on a number of training initiatives, including annual Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) training and marketing compliance. “Training can be a bore — especially the kind of training I’m doing,” she recognizes. “But I try to treat sessions as more of a conversation than a lecture. It’s a great way to connect with our people and opens me up to their feedback. It also allows us to address problems and stay in compliance while still making money.”
Proactive reputation management
One of the greatest challenges in the insurance and benefits industry is building consumer trust — particularly in a market that has changed significantly since the enactment of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Recent studies suggest that less than a third of people surveyed trust their insurance providers, which creates a steep hill to climb for a business that markets and administers these plans.
But instead of spending countless hours on damage control, DentalPlans.com has customer service and satisfaction covered. A proactive social media marketing approach preempts service issues and builds a precedent of trust and communication with the consumers the company serves.
“As legal counsel, social media really is not talked about much, but our company takes it very seriously,” Powers explains. “For me personally that makes or breaks your job. If all you do is respond to complaints, it gets old fast — that’s a rough job. Given what we do, which is deal with the public, we really have to do it. For me now, it’s something that’s not negotiable in a job.”
With a strong team proactively building rapport with existing and potential customers, as well as addressing complaints both publicly and privately, DentalPlans.com displays a culture of customer care both in the office and on social platforms. “We respond to people, take care of them the best we can and keep everything on the up and up,” explains Powers. “We reply to the negative, but our branding team has done great job at keeping it positive. We strive to remain a consumer-friendly brand that people recognize as something positive to be associated with.”
Positivity pays off
At the end of the day, positivity is a major force behind the efficient and customer-oriented operation of DentalPlans.com on the day to day. Powers takes great pride in the team she supports — and that supports her.
“Every time I walk into the lobby, I am so proud that we have a really good brand and have worked hard to develop it,” she elaborates. “We are focused on making customers understand and they come back to us with testimonials about how much they saved. We work hard to simplify our products and services to the public and we have videos streaming in the lobby of what we are all about.”
Alongside the displays, the lobby also features a wall displaying its team of dedicated employees. “We are very focused on our employees,” Powers explains. “We are a family and everyone has a role to play. It’s a great team to work with.” As DentalPlans.com maintains upward momentum, Powers plays her own important role — protecting the brand and supporting the team.