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As we begin the New Year, healthcare payers have an immediate opportunity to boost member satisfaction.
According to the latest American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) covering the insurance sector, consumers are happier than they’ve been the previous two years. Good news for healthcare payers, right? Not quite. The health insurance sector only scored a 72 in 2016, indicating that there is still plenty of room for improvement.
As we begin the New Year, healthcare payers have an immediate opportunity to give those ratings an immediate boost in creating a frictionless experience for the modern consumer.
Appeal to Generation “C” in an on-demand economy
Consumers are used to the effortless experiences they receive from companies like Amazon and Uber. As heightened expectations driven from the on-demand economy bleed into regulated industries like healthcare, it has become increasingly important for healthcare payers to make their services available to this generation of highly connected consumers, or “Generation C,” at any time and on any channel of their choice.
Generation C expects companies to provide the best experience possible with full knowledge of the data that companies have on hand. In short, Gen C knows that companies have detailed, actionable information regarding their preferences, and they feel slighted if companies fail to act on it.
Forward-thinking payers are using technology to automate self-service for members, and empower their agents through predictive analytics and machine learning technologies that enable them to deliver a superior customer experience. First, these companies recognize the power of self-service and enable their customers to seek out information on their own terms through chatbot technology such as a virtual agent or intelligent assistant. And some take it a step further by pairing a bot with agent-assisted service, so that if a customer can’t find information on their own or requires special assistance, their question is transitioned to a live support agent (who doesn’t ask the customer to start over).
These are the kinds of investments that can separate one payer from another by meeting the heightened expectations of today’s consumers when it comes to customer experience. And not only do payers benefit from investments in chat technology for customer retention/acquisition purposes, but they also save in agent salary costs: $12 billion in insurance sales agent annual salary costs and $23 billion in customer service agent annual salary costs across the U.S. alone, to be exact, according to Business Insider Intelligence.
Predictive technologies that anticipate customer intent
Once healthcare payers connect with Generation C customers through their preferred channels, members will crave a personalized experience. To engage them, some payers have invested in predictive technologies to understand a consumer’s intent, so that finding information and enacting purchasing decisions becomes much easier. For instance, if a member is comparing deductibles online, customer service solutions can predict that person’s next likely action and serve up related information. Anticipating needs can also help companies better identify prospective members that are likely to convert.
When evaluating their healthcare options, members expect to self-serve for answers and basic information on their own. This is particularly true of millennials, one-third of whom say optimal self-service is what they look for in a great customer service experience.
Bots are certainly the most buzzed-about self-service incarnation. This is because companies can integrate bots into multiple customer channels, such as web browsers, mobile and even hugely popular messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, allowing customers to address their needs at any time, on the channel most convenient for them.
However, due to the sensitive and financial nature of healthcare coverage, bots aren’t equipped to handle the full spectrum of member queries. This makes it critical for any self-service solution to easily hand off the interaction to a human agent when the situation calls for it. For instance, if a member has a unique medical situation to discuss and it can no longer be handled through self-service, the right technology can effortlessly transition the conversation to a live agent who is already well-equipped with full context of the customer’s journey.
When it comes to delivering a superior self-service experience, healthcare payers will want to keep two things in mind:
1. Leverage existing customer data to understand what a customer is trying to do, and use that insight to best guide them through their healthcare planning journey.
2. Have a fluid system in place to allow the customer to seamlessly transition from self-service to assisted-service. Using these two measures, healthcare payers can stay competitive in meeting the heightened expectations of members.
It’s encouraging to see consumer satisfaction with health insurance increase over the past two years, and we hope that this trajectory will continue in 2017 and the years to follow. Still, the best way for payers to retain and attract new members is to take help them navigate their healthcare insurance options with ease and convenience. Doing so means not only greater profitability for these companies, but also the ability to build member loyalty through a truly personalized and efficient customer experience.
Scott Horn has been advising enterprises on technology application for 25 years, with a background at Microsoft and Seagate Technology. He now holds the role of CMO at 7, an AI-powered customer engagement software and solutions provider to the healthcare industry.