Technological innovation has already disrupted retail, and it is poised to revolutionize every other consumer-facing business vertical. However, in the case of health insurance (thanks to constant pressure from the government and customers alike to boost their services while also cutting costs), many organizations find themselves unable to make the necessary investments that would help them take full advantage of all the benefits that digitalization offers.

Health insurance providers – and the Amazon effect

Thanks to the Amazon effect, the average consumer is now officially multichannel in all of their transactions whether booking a vacation, applying for a loan or cancelling a cable subscription. And the health insurance industry is not immune from this changing behavior. Today, when an individual is ready to sign up for health insurance – or faces a change event – there’s a strong chance that they have thoroughly researched the company, the coverage it offers, how it stacks up against its competitors and, crucially, what current customers are saying about their experience with the provider.

McKinsey research shows that eight in 10 consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. According to Temkin Group, 65 percent of consumers who have had a bad experience will share the details with friends, family or via social channels.

Old traditions are giving way to new behaviors and expectations

“The traditional way of handling customer service no longer exists,” says John Thompson, Vice President Banking, Financial Services and Insurance at Sitel Group. “It’s not about phones or even email, it is about providing a positive service wherever the customer is, whenever they want it. For healthcare providers, that means a seamless experience during which a member can move from chat or email, to a phone call and still be connected with the same agent.”

Insurance companies may say that in the current market, price has become the differentiator but, when all companies in the sector are trying to offer what they perceive as value for money, then customer service – building and maintaining strong customer experience (CX) – becomes the only true differentiator.

Customer service makes a measurable difference

According to Bain and Co’s 2017 report into the industry highlights, insurers that have doubled down on customer service through investments in a multichannel approach and adopting digital tools have been rewarded with greater customer loyalty. This, in turn, has seen increases of up to 20 percentage points for Net Promoter Scores over a three-year period.

There is a potential gain in market share for insurers that are ready to take the necessary steps toward digital transformation. The most recent Forrester U.S. Health Insurance Customer Experience Index lays this fact bare. Even though customer service is cited as the main reason for customer s to remain with their current insurance company, only 57 percent of consumers surveyed said that they have received good customer service from their health insurance provider.

Unlike property and casualty insurers for whom building customer loyalty is still a huge challenge due to the relative lack of interaction they have with their clients – no claim, no contact – health insurance providers have the opportunity to engage often with their customers. This even includes times in which the customer is expecting the insurance to work seamlessly with their medical provider. Each of these touch points adds up to an overall positive or negative CX.

“This is why consistency across channels and across services – be it billing and payment processing or accessing self-care information via the website – is key to satisfaction,” continues Thompson.

Outsourcing your way to better loyalty

In the current cost-cutting environment, many insurers point out the fact that budgets for delivering such transformative services are being squeezed.

“Leveraging a business process outsourcer with a clear track record in the industry allows you to optimize your customer journey, regardless of channels, and to defend against declining profit margins while simultaneously supporting cost containment efforts,” Thompson explains.

For over 30 years, Sitel Group has partnered with insurance providers to boost their customer service, gain greater insights and build loyalty. As well as customer service, claims support, medical billing and payment processing, we can also develop and deliver modified training solutions for customer service agents and deliver solutions that require extra staffing, hardware and software support.

Sitel Group