Better data and the use of innovative technologies including artificial intelligence (AI) will help automate and streamline much of the health insurance industry. But, no amount of digitalization will ever be able to completely replace the contact center agent, particularly at the moment of truth.

Nothing can replicate the level of engagement, the emotional connection, and the empathy that speaking to another person provides when it comes to something as personal and individual as health.

The future of the contact center is a blend of technology and empathy

“It can be easy to forget that emotion is central to being human,” says John Thompson, Vice President Banking, Financial Services and Insurance at Sitel Group. “And that emotion is central to the customer journey. No matter how tech-savvy we become, we are always more likely to pick up the phone to discuss something as sensitive as health. And, when we do, we want to feel empathy, to feel supported – things that an algorithm can’t deliver.”

However, there are plenty of things that better data, digitalization, and algorithms can bring to health insurance providers, from automating the claims process to sifting through masses of information in moments to calculate a risk profile. All of which is having an impact on contact center agents.

“Technology is already giving those companies that have embraced transformation greater agility and flexibility, but to really deliver in terms of customer experience, agents need to have a new skill set,” Thompson points out. “They need to be comfortable using these new digital systems and confident in leveraging them to meet a customer’s emotional need. In other words, we’re moving into the era of the augmented agent.”

An augmented agent needs augmented training

The augmented agent works alongside and in harmony with technology to deliver new levels of customer experience (CX). But in order to achieve the desired results, that employee needs to be both emotionally and technologically fluent.

“The profile of the agent is changing rapidly,” warns Thompson. “And that presents a huge challenge to health insurance providers in terms of recruitment and more importantly, training.”

Fixed curricula, in-house training platforms, and purely classroom-based learning – for years this was the accepted approach for getting agents ready for the floor – are no longer up to the task of keeping pace with technological and regulatory change.

Why the best forms of training put the learner first

“The most effective forms of professional development now focus on the person rather than the content,” Thompson says. “How that content is presented, and through what medium is crucial for engagement and for ensuring active knowledge transfer.”

This is why Sitel Group’s award-winning training and development company, Learning Tribes, always takes a blended-learning approach that considers every available technology when designing programs that are going to appeal to and engage with employees.

“The goal is to deliver an immersive experience and to use the tools available to customize delivery for individual employees based on their existing skills, learning capabilities and preferences,” Thompson begins. “For example, a millennial may respond very differently to a person in their mid-30s to educational units pushed out via smartphone and with social media integration. But the goal is to recognize each person’s needs are different and to deliver in a way that boosts graduation rates, cuts attrition and ultimately leads to higher and higher levels of customer satisfaction.”

Outsourcing is the solution to the problem of training

Unfortunately, due to the 24/7 nature of the industry, agents are rarely available to undergo in-depth, prolonged skills training. And, with the costs of transforming professional education, companies without access to the right professional partners struggle to leverage the possibilities that enhancing agent performance with technology can deliver.

“Working in partnership with the right business process outsourcer (BPO) unlocks synergies and opens up access to a host of expertise that would be otherwise out for reach – particularly for smaller organizations,” says Thompson. “Outsourcing learning and development solutions alone will give a business access to the latest approaches and ed-tech but also reduce overall training costs.”

Whether it’s access to the latest training and professional development techniques, using data analytics to bring automation to business processes, enhancing the customer journey or helping a business transform for the digital age, Sitel Group has a proven track record in helping organizations across banking and financial services to enhance their levels of customer service and CX.

Sitel Group