Consumers dissatisfied with insurers’ health plans, support services

Strong demand to offer more insurance services through technology has been somewhat tempered by negative consumer experiences with digital services, a new study has found. The report, commissioned by Smart Communications and prepared by Forrester Consulting, is titled “Disjointed Experiences Cost Insurers Money and Members.” It finds that despite signs of progress, many digital interactions are negatively impacting the customer experience and ultimately health plans’ bottom lines.

“Consumers expect their interactions with health insurers to reflect the same simple, intuitive experiences they have in retail and other industries,” said James Brown, CEO of Smart Communications. “Health insurers are presented with an important opportunity to reimagine the member experience – especially during the claims process – by improving their conversations and making them more personalized and highly relevant, which will build trust and loyalty.”

I still rely on phone calls

The study notes that health insurance customer support lags behind other industries in the use of digital tools and that most contact between consumers and insurers comes via phone calls. At the same time, phone calls have the highest rating for dissatisfaction, indicating that consumers are not finding good options for getting help with their insurance problems.

The study found that consumers use both digital and traditional channels to interact with health insurance companies. When asked what approach they use to communicate with insurers, the results were: 42% by phone, 38% websites, 24% email, 16% traditional mail, 14% in person, 11% online chat, 10% text message and 10% by app. Although consumers use a wide range of approaches, more traditional types of communication, such as telephone and email, continue to be heavily used.

The findings show that users are dissatisfied with the results regardless of the platform. “Even with this reliance on offline channels, 51% of members are dissatisfied with their phone interactions,” the study said. “This means that members are not getting what they need from digital channels and that no channel is offering a great experience. For insurers, continued reliance on offline channels, especially the contact center, drives up costs.”

Insurers struggle to measure, improve digital services The report says high levels of customer dissatisfaction will be difficult to address unless insurers do a better job of measuring and tracking customer experience. “Less than 40% of insurers track journey and end-of-journey metrics and therefore do not understand the customer journey or what members think success looks like,” the report notes.

The survey found that insurers listed a number of challenges, including: Constantly personalizing member communications beyond greeting them by name (58%); providing members with a seamless digital experience during a given member journey (57%); and pre-populating existing member information on forms (55%).

The study concluded that insurers, while supportive of improving the customer experience, have focused mostly on low-hanging fruit and are more concerned with winning over new customers than improving the experience of their current members.

“The top three areas of focus for insurers’ customer journeys for the year were researching/selecting/buying a plan, finding an in-network provider, and researching plan benefits,” the study said. “This shows that they are more concerned with attracting new members than significantly improving the experience for members they already serve.”

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