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Improving the Health Insurance Customer Experience with Better Communication and Concierge Services

When it comes to what consumers want from their healthcare companies, the facts aren’t all that surprising. But now we’ve got the data to back those desires up, along with some important insights for health insurance organizations.

We recently surveyed 200 participants, ages 18-70, about this very topic. The results highlight a few key opportunities for improving the ways that insurance companies interact with their users.

Making these improvements can increase user engagement and help those users to better navigate complex and fragmented healthcare ecosystems.

First Things First: Start with What Digital Healthcare Users Want

The most important step in improving any customer experience (CX) is empathizing with the customer. Real-world customer journeys must inform CX design decisions. Otherwise, it’s easy to direct efforts in areas that won’t yield the most return on investment — or which may even detract from the customer experience further.

Our research shows that, of the 200 respondents surveyed about their insurance member portals and mobile apps:

  • 67.5% want an account summary (covering deductibles, out-of-pocket expenses paid, etc.)
  • 66.6% want a clear presentation of their existing benefits and coverage
  • 61% want accurate, responsive customer care
  • 56% want a better experience in finding care (doctors, dentists, hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, etc.)
  • 42% want better cost estimation tools for services rendered or prescriptions
  • 37% want an improved understanding of their health plan details and coverage
  • 31% want online bill paying options
  • 28% want digital ID cards for themselves and others on their plan
  • 23.5% want appointment scheduling functionality
  • 20.5% want personalized care recommendations based on their health status or history.

Faced with such data, most insurance companies rightly point out that usage and engagement with insurance member portals and mobile apps are, at best, episodic and infrequent.

In fact, fewer than 15% of those surveyed used their member portal or mobile app five or more times in the past 12 months.

Nobody wakes up one day and says, “wow, I need to download my insurance app.” They sign up for and use those apps when they really need something. Plus, people dealing with chronic conditions, multiple prescriptions, or major medical events, typically reach for the phone and call for assistance. They don’t opt for self-service.

All of this makes it tough for some insurance companies to prioritize investing in their member portals and mobile apps.

Health Insurance Companies Must Prioritize CX Improvements Accordingly

Because member portal and mobile app usage numbers are so low, health insurance companies wind up asking if investing in those areas makes sense. Every bit of our own research and expertise screams, “yes”. User experience (UX) improvements focused in key areas are the path toward positive results for healthcare payers.

It’s also important to note that while usage may be low, we don’t always know why. Are users distrustful of member portals because of bad experiences in the past? Maybe they had a hard time finding the information they needed when attempting to self serve. That’s where qualitative research like user interviews, usability testing, and journey mapping can come in handy to help uncover pain points and opportunities for improvement.

We know that consumers want convenience, time savings, and reduced effort when it comes to their digital healthcare experiences. And we know that expectations today are shaped and reshaped by everything happening in e-commerce.

We also know that healthcare organizations are falling behind.

Consider the fact that the Net Promoter Score (NPS) for the Health Insurance industry stands at a measly 24. Now, compare this to the averages of:

  • Retailers, at 35
  • Banks, at 32
  • Airlines, at 37
  • Hotels, at 37

In light of this dismal score, we have identified two specific areas of opportunity that consumers indicate would both increase their satisfaction with their insurance companies, and lead to better health outcomes.

These are improving personalized communication, and integrating concierge services. Let’s take a closer look at both.

How Do Your Customers Want to Communicate?

In our survey, we asked respondents what exactly would improve their overall satisfaction with their health insurance companies. This is where actionable insights into personalized communication begin to surface.

Of the 200 participants surveyed, 66% said they want more personalized communication. What healthcare organizations need to understand is that the preferred methods of communication are very dependent upon the age demographic of the user.

Users in the 18-29 age group prefer communication via text (67.86%), with email coming in a close second (64.29%).

In the 30-44% age group, email is the preferred method of communication (69.77%), with mobile apps coming in second (62.79%). It’s worth noting that text does make it into the top three for this demographic, but sees a steep drop-off in numbers (32.56%).

When you get into older age groups, email is a distant first place. Email is the preferred method of communication both for age groups 45-60 (75%) and those over the age of 60 (71.43 %).

The takeaway here is clear — users in different age groups prefer to communicate in different ways. And, in certain groups, there is a pretty definitive preference. To truly personalize communication in a way that improves the user experience, you need to know who it is you’re communicating with, and how they actually want to do it.

Enhance Your User Experience to Capitalize on Concierge Service Offerings

Bryan Cole at Gartner Research defines concierge services as “the advocacy and wayfinding add-on services that payers offer to improve the member experience, including physician selection, consumer shopping tools, wellness coaching and second-opinion consultations.”

Health Insurance companies can use concierge services to further personalize their member experience and increase engagement. These value-added concierge services help members manage their health and are increasingly in demand by members seeking a seamless experience and group purchasers looking to improve health and financial outcomes.

These services, along with personalized communication, play a key role in securing and retaining happy customers. However, even those companies most dedicated to a growing list of concierge services can’t do everything in-house. Most payers instead focus on a combination of owned and contracted concierge services as part of their offerings.

A quick note on contracted concierge services and the user experience: You don’t just want to just link out from a member portal or mobile app and direct users out of that interface. That’s adding a new service at the cost of a good user experience. Whenever possible, avoid directing customers to a partner’s user interface, and instead evaluate integrating an available API into your own member experience.

How Do You Know Which Concierge Services to Offer, or Which Communication Improvements to Make?

The short answer, again, is that you empathize with your users. It all comes back to this. Improving any healthcare digital experience necessitates knowing what your users want, what their pain points are, and what they hope to see from your product and service offerings.

Ask yourself how any given service will increase engagement, improve CX, and create better outcomes. When identifying and prioritizing concierge services to integrate into your member experience, as well as communication improvement opportunities, take the following steps:

Survey your customers

Going directly to consumers is always going to be the best starting point for figuring out what they want. Ask them:

  • What is their demand for any given concierge service? A nice to have, or a must have?
  • What is their overall satisfaction level with the current contracted service, and the user experience offered?
  • What could be done to improve their satisfaction? Be specific. Does a third party website work as well on a mobile browser as on a desktop computer? You need specifics so you can determine what is in your control, and what is not. That’s key information when the time for prioritization comes.

Map out their customer journeys

Healthcare customer journey mapping highlights issues in existing healthcare digital experiences, as well as areas for improvement. When journey mapping, ask yourself:

  • What are users’ pain points and emotional states at each step of the journey? Empathize with them to gain insights on the most impactful CX improvements.
  • At what point(s) in the customer journey would concierge services be most helpful?
  • What opportunities exist for personalized outreach, and when or how should you be engaging with different user groups.

Complete a UX Strategy Sprint

When you’re not sure if you should build out or contract concierge services, or if you’re not sure which services would most benefit your users, it’s time to frame the problem and build a roadmap. A UX Strategy Sprint includes:

  • Determining if additional research is needed to better understand the problem space through user and key stakeholder interviews and usability testing of the current system.
  • Workshops bringing together stakeholders from different areas of the business, building cross functional alignment while solving the problem at hand.
  • Designing concepts and interactive prototypes of your vision.
  • Validating new designs through usability testing.
  • Implementing UX and technical roadmaps to achieve your vision and prioritize improvements.
  • Providing business leverage and gaining executive buy-in and funding through data and prototyping.

Communicate Effectively and Offer Healthcare Insurance Customers the Services They Want, Seamlessly

Overall, our survey didn’t yield any truly shocking data — but it did provide valuable and actionable insights.

It verifies that the changes your customers want in their healthcare experience can’t happen without a serious review of your UX and a better understanding of them as customers. It shows the need for offering them the services they want in a way they’ll want to engage with.

Be realistic about what you can do, prioritize what you should do, and strategize to create a plan for moving forward. That’s how you continue to make the CX improvements that will most benefit you and your users over time.

Need help creating a roadmap or developing a better understanding of your customers? Get in touch. We’re happy to discuss your needs and offer our expertise.

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