Engaging a Member Where They Are, Not Where You Think They Should Be

Think about the last time you bought a car. The salesman probably spent an hour with you explaining all of the features and how to use them after you had already bought the car and signed the papers. It could seem like a waste of sales hours from the dealership’s perspective. In reality, customers that know how to get maximum value from the product they purchase are more likely to appreciate that product and buy again. Healthcare is no different. Health plans benefit by helping their members get the most out of their coverage. There are two basic challenges, though: The first is getting the member to use the benefits that keep them healthy, so that they never have to use the high cost sick care. Second, when they do use the major coverage, how do health plans help them use their health policy efficiently so that members get the most value out of their plan? Customers that never realize value don’t renew, but customers that perceive value can be quite loyal.

Creating mutually beneficial engagement with the customer deepens the relationship and creates many more opportunities to create value. This type of engagement is positive and results in a win-win scenario, but is not easy to achieve. Let’s look at a few guiding principles that can help lead to a successful engagement strategy.

Understand Your Customers

Any good engagement strategy begins with extensive research on who your customers are holistically and what makes them tick. This means understanding the customer not only in the context of a healthcare plan, but rather as a complete human. The best companies are realizing that health does not just happen in doctor’s offices and hospital rooms. It happens in grocery stores, gyms, when sleeping, eating, and even playing. A big step forward for health plans has been the creation of dedicated customer experience areas. These dedicated departments do an extensive amount of research to create “segments” based on clustered characteristics (age, gender, income, education, buying habits, family status etc.). These segments can be used to create behavioral and preference based profiles for better targeted outreach and offers.

These customer profiles can also include an understanding of when customers want to talk. The “when” can be something as straightforward as a system tag that indicates that a customer does not want to be called during dinner time or on the weekend. It can also be as sophisticated as not having a health coach reach out to a member right after they’ve just called to complain about an incorrect charge. Timing is everything.

When thinking about where and when to engage a healthcare member, the answer likely differs depending on the type of interaction. A thorough customer journey map needs to be created that shows the lifecycle of a member from product/company research, to purchase, onboarding, utilization, ongoing customer service interactions and renewal. More progressive companies consider the overall customer journey map as extensively as possible. Are there ways to touch the customer and add value at their gym or grocery store? Are there opportunities to provide beneficial influence on other important life decisions? Maybe advice on baby products or prenatal nutrition or even young parent support groups?

The how and when to engage someone largely depends on where a company is in its journey with its customers and prospective customers. Healthcare can be confusing and stressful so it’s important to adapt based on the level of the relationship between health plan and customer. Relationships will be strong enough with some customers to make recommendations that might seem intrusive with others. Take the temperature of the room to adapt to the circumstance; for example a telephonic customer service representative shouldn’t be perceived as an unwanted telemarketing salesperson. Something as simple as mentioning a service the member wasn’t aware of and offering to follow up with an email can be more effective than a 15 minute sales pitch. It depends on who that customer is, where they are in their journey and what they’re looking for.

Implement and Continuously Improve

Your research and analytics tell you which customers to reach and when, but the question is how? There is no single answer. Multi-channel marketing has become mission critical. Smart companies need the ability to reach customers where, when and how they want to be reached. Ask any millennial how they want to be reached and they will often tell you not to call them and that the Phone is just an annoying app on their Phone that they try to never use. The point is that its critical to reach the customer based on the customer’s preferences because increasingly they have the flexibility to show their displeasure or disdain by spending their money elsewhere.

Multichannel marketing mustn’t be viewed as haphazard or “any which way” marketing. Whether the interaction be on phone, in-person, web chat, email or even a video chat, it is important to be consistent across channels. It is also important that all channels use and feed the same customer profile information. Customer profiling is not a once and done operation. It is continuous. Customers are dynamic and their needs and preferences change over time and by experience and type of encounter. Continuously updating and enhancing customer insights is critical and every interaction is an opportunity to learn more and refine.

Technology is a Means to an End

Customer Engagement is both an art and a science. Foundational to the effort is data. Without data, and tools to convert data into actionable insights, nothing is possible. On a large scale, this takes extensive planning and effort. Technology such as Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software is vital in managing the various stakeholder interactions and outreach. The CRM itself is only a tool though. In its native form, it provides a mechanism to manage interactions but not the underlying intelligence or insight to mastermind it. The CRM as a tool needs to be customized for the task at hand and optimized for the industry.

Colibrium has dedicated years to understanding the healthcare customer journey. Over a decade’s worth of health insurance expertise is integrated into Colibrium’s Forward™ CRM Applications. These applications sit on top of and optimize the health plan’s CRM. Technology is a means to a brighter future. We look forward to continuing to work with our health plan customers to help them optimize their customer interactions and make healthcare as frictionless and fulfilling as possible for everyone.