Earn their trust, earn their cash

January 17, 2012
Julia Brown

Julia Brown is a Content Specialist for Managed Healthcare Executive.

Managing consulting firm Peppers & Rogers Group released the results of its Trustability in Health Care study, which showed that consumers are willing to pay more for services from trustworthy health insurers. Respondents said they would be willing to pay on average $30 a month more to do business with a health insurer they trust, with some willing to pay up to $100 a month total

In order to survive in the changing marketplace, industry experts say that health insurers need to brush up on basic customer service practices to build trust with individual consumers. It’s also a big financial opportunity.

Recently, managing consulting firm Peppers & Rogers Group released the results of its Trustability in Health Care study, which showed that consumers are willing to pay more for services from trustworthy health insurers. Respondents said they would be willing to pay on average $30 a month more to do business with a health insurer they trust, with some willing to pay up to $100 a month total.

“Trust is a multi-million dollar opportunity,” says Marc Ruggiano, partner and healthcare practice leader at Peppers & Rogers Group. “For a midsized health insurer, that’s a $350 million a year opportunity, and it’s well worth spending the time, effort, and an appropriate amount of resources to build that trustability.”

The firm offers customer-based business consulting in the healthcare industry.

“Trust is an issue that is increasingly important and making its way toward the top of the executive to-do list,” Ruggiano says. “It helps build more productive, long-term, mutually beneficial relationships.”

For years, Ruggiano says, insurers have focused on the plan sponsor as the customer, and now they’re struggling with building relationships with individual members. Trust is a core component of that and, as the survey shows, it aligns well with the clinical outcomes that health insurers are looking for.

Ruggiano says consumer behavior is changing. Companies are facilitating new levels of customer service, enabling a level of transparency in the sharing of insight, reviews and opinions, and establishing an expectation for consumers. That increased expectation, Ruggiano says, is an equally important driver to the changes mandated by healthcare reform.

Overall it’s not about installing a new expensive technology system, or hiring a big new sales force, but about a new way of doing things, says Marjorie Chimes, vice president of Marketing and Media and a partner at Peppers & Rogers Group. Instead, she says, insurers should think about their current practices, and how their employees are interacting and communicating with customers. Rather than a flashy advertising campaign, service is an affordable way of differentiating brands in the market.

“Health insurers have to get the basics right,” Ruggiano says.

He recommends perfecting the following customer service practices:

  • Become adept at developing insight about your customers. Collect data and use analytics to understand it, then apply it through call centers, websites, and marketing teams.

  • View each interaction as an opportunity and be prepared to make the most of those interactions. Each can provide a positive experience, or the opposite.

  • Use consumer information to your advantage. Other industries already do, and insurers need to follow that lead.

  • Provide communication that’s clear, simple and in plain English-not full of the usual acronyms.

  • Hold yourself and your employees accountable for acting in a trusted manner and delivering good experiences. Reward employees when they do a good job.

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