I think about customer service constantly. That’s because there is no better barometer for gauging the future success of your business than knowing how well you’re serving your customers right now. As someone who oversees our call center and customer service team, it’s also my job to make sure that great customer service extends beyond the people on the phones and influences the operations of the whole company.
Dissatisfaction is rising in American customer service on both sides. The National Customer Rage Survey (yes, that’s what they call it) tracks customer service and incivility. Customer service is anywhere from 5-10% worse than a year ago, according to the survey. Customers are fed up with talking to machines only to face the same questions again once they finally reach a real person. Meanwhile, customer service representatives say incivility among customers has never been higher.
Those two insights probably are related.
As a customer you feel it when your needs are being met, and when they aren’t, you want to take your business elsewhere immediately. Speed and accuracy (and not transferring people to all corners of the company for answers) are paramount.
But who is a customer?
The answer is more complex than you might think. We start by treating our customer service team members as our first customers. Theirs is a tough job, and they deserve all the support we can give them. Not only that, but how they treat members has a direct connection to improving their health, and our success as a company. Because of this, these are some of our most valued employees. So, we provide health, dental and vision coverage, flexible spending accounts and transportation benefits, as well as a 401(k) plan that matches up to 5.25% of employer contributions. Employees also receive company-paid life insurance, accidental death and dismemberment and long-term disability insurance, and we offer flexibility and remote work options for most employees.
By treating our customer service team members as our own internal customers, we model the behavior we expect from them. Their commitment to our customers is reflected in the independent industry awards they win for effective customer service every year, but for us, measuring their satisfaction is just as important as measuring our external customers’ satisfaction. Internal surveys show we consistently receive high scores from our customer service team members for teamwork, company leadership, culture and the ability for individual employees to have a positive impact on the lives of members while also working to bring needed change to the health care industry.
Health care navigators find a way
Our customers include some of the largest employers and labor groups in the country. Serving them well requires far more than maintaining a robust network or making sure to meet regulatory requirements or paying claims. We’re good at all those things, but where the rubber really meets the road is helping our members navigate their journey when things get complicated, as they often do in health care.
It is vitally important to have several tiers of support our customers can utilize. We understand at an elemental level that connecting members to the right resources to get the most out of their health care benefits is the reason we exist. We have direct and immediate access to the doctors, hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, long-term care facilities and hospice providers members are seeking. Depending on the level of service our partners choose, we can get quick answers, find providers, schedule appointments and coordinate services between doctors, medical facilities and hospitals. We can even provide support in finding assistance from private and public health care agencies. Our customer service representatives have seen it all and know how to get members on track to better health.
Our customers are accountable to their members so our customer service team must serve these members exceedingly well. For this reason, they must be skilled experts at navigating a confusing array of options. For us, each member who calls for help is an opportunity to cement our value proposition. And if we can serve them well, we will automatically be serving the organizations to which they belong.
Members won’t always need the concierge-level service our team has been repeatedly recognized for providing, but it is comforting to know that when they run into a seemingly intractable problem, we can help resolve it.
Quite simply, it’s our job to make sure that after a member hangs up a call with us, they have everything they need to focus on their health, and don’t have to worry about who, or where, to call next.
Brian Murray is Chief Operating Officer at Brighton Health Plan Solutions, an innovative New York-based healthcare enablement company on a mission to improve how healthcare is accessed and delivered in the self-insured health plan market.