Since the release of our Health Insurance Customer Experience White Paper, we’ve had thought-provoking engagement from health insurance providers, aggregators and customers. These insights uncovered more ‘devil in the detail’ to complement the comprehensive knowledge base in the White Paper.
In terms of observations with customer retention, several funds have had to introduce policies with exclusions, sub-limits and changes to the limits due in order to lower prices and make them more affordable. However, when customers find out later that these changes did not meet their initial expectations and then leave, these products can then become commercially unsustainable and unprofitable over time. This leads insurers to implement more restrictive changes which can further reinforce the ongoing vicious cycle of poorer customer retention.
Customer retention can also be linked to staff retention, particularly on the front line. In Australia, one of the reasons for this is because new staff are recruited into call centre’s particularly during the peak periods of March and June. This is where policy sales increase due to annual price rises and the end of financial year respectively (so tax benefits can be claimed). These new sales staff may not be as well trained on product knowledge or company procedures compared to the usual staff and may provide information that is inaccurate or incomplete.
During this period, the quality of interaction and customer understanding from the call centre may decline and policy sales that occur may be due to aggressive marketing strategies. This is exacerbated by incentives and pressure on front-line sales staff to meet sales targets during a short period of time. It can therefore result in sales of health insurance products that don’t necessarily meet the needs of customers.
There have also been observations on aggregator funds that sell health insurance products on behalf of health insurance funds. To differentiate themselves, these aggregators aim to spend a significant amount of time with customers to understand their real needs and position policies that better suit their needs out of a broader selection. However, they too can sometimes be influenced by policies with the best incentives.
A key issue can occur once a customer has signed up with the aggregator, and their details then have to be handed over to the health insurance fund. This follow up process may occasionally be disjointed. It can result in the customer’s ‘old’ fund continuing to deduct monthly payments while the new fund (that the customer has just switched to) has also begun to deduct payments. Many of these handovers can be messy and as a result cause a lot of customer dissatisfaction and complaints because it relies on coordination between entirely different organisations.
In some cases, this coordination may be seamless, but in others there are competitive reasons why this coordination may be challenging for the customer. This is when the old funds ‘win-back’ teams are not alerted to contact the customer and try and win back the customer that’s looking to change. Although there are regulations to prevent any inappropriate actions from occurring, however there are nuances that allow funds to utilize a variety of different tactics when it comes to trying to retain that customer.
Ultimately, behavior that ends up frustrating customers will cost either the aggregator or the health fund in the short, medium, or long-term, by departure of that customer. Insurers should decide what is in the best interest of the customers when making these decisions before creating solutions or changes to the process.
If you’d like to learn more on ways to empower consumers and improve experience in the health journey, join us in Melbourne for a breakfast event called Building a Sustainable, Patient-Centred Healthcare System on Oct 30, 2015, 7.30 AM to 10.30 AM (AEST). Download the brochure here. Our breakfast event in Sydney was a great success, so if you happen to be in Melbourne, please join us if you are available, and feel free to pass on this invitation to your colleagues in healthcare. Click here to REGISTER
Many thanks to our readers who contributed their knowledge to this article – but who did not wish to be acknowledged – you know who you are!
In your experience, what have you observed in terms of the process of switching health insurance policies?
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Dr Avi specialises in insights and strategies to improve patient and customer experience.
Contact: +61 2 8091 0918