I was recently working with a Healthcare Insurance operations executive servicing Medicare. She had some interesting perspectives on providing customer service through their web portal as opposed to their phone-based call center. The thought was that the portal was a more logical and cost-efficient pathway for self-service. The phone channel comes with costs to support infrastructure and agents, and can also be a slower pathway for customers to resolve several types of issues. I can appreciate why someone would have this perception. But looking deeper, keeping a robust phone channel still makes a lot of sense and should be an integral part of your customer service strategy.
Two truths dictate a clear path forward for the future of the phone channel.
The phone channel is still and will continue to be, a vital part of the customer service experience.
I think we can all intuitively agree with the first point. So, let’s discuss the second.
A 2017 study by DMG Consulting indicates that consumer’s preferred way to communicate with businesses is a tie between the phone and email (37% each). Also, the study found that the more complex and/or urgent the issue, the greater the preference to use the phone channel and speak to an agent. This trend holds even when selecting for generational factors (Millennials vs. Baby Boomers). [One point of interest regarding millennials: They also have preferences toward text, online chat, and other digital channels.]
When you put these observations together, a clear opportunity presents itself to improve the experience for Medicare & Health Insurance constituencies AND drastically improve operational costs.
With regards to the phone channel, the answer is smart automation. An intelligent IVR experience with robust self-service capabilities can seamlessly identify and extract customer information to handle routine inquiries in a natural flowing experience for customers. If agent interventions are needed, all the critical information from the interaction passes to an agent with the right skill(s) in the right department for a concise and compelling experience. It can also be very cost-effective.
MicroAutomation performed an ROI analysis to quantify the value of an intelligent IVR vs. a portal/agent strategy. The results show the well-designed IVR paid for itself many times over. The IVR was an extremely cost-effective method to reduce live agent time and efficiently solve customer problems at scale.
What I hope you take away from this is that an intelligent IVR capability is a critical component to a larger omnichannel contact center strategy. The Healthcare insurance market must provide a consistent and outstanding experience with multi-channel communication. Phone, email, and portal are the primary inbound channels and will continue to be crucial parts of the equation. However, investments in other digital channels must also be made.
MicroAutomation is a leader in bringing HIPAA compliant omnichannel contact center capabilities to organizations. If you would like to learn more, we would love to discuss your business needs.