Simple Ideas for a Complex System

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Improved customer service

Improved Customer Service

by Bill Zachry, SCIF Board Member

With the advent of AI-powered customer call centers the promise is of easier navigation and improved service. Many current call centers have yet to transition to this technology.

Great customer service is a primary responsibility of the CEO of every company in our industry. I firmly believe that having the senior executive of the company actively regularly (once a month on the calendar) testing the customer service call centers, would positively enhance the customer experience.

Recently, I encountered an issue with a company acting as a TPA for an insurance firm. While on vacation, I contracted Covid-19, necessitating a ten-day quarantine that delayed my return home. Upon diagnosis, I promptly reported the claim, only to encounter frustration when I called the provided number for inquiries about my travel insurance. I was informed that I had dialed the wrong number and was redirected, enduring a half-hour hold time due to “high call volumes.” Despite being offered the option for a callback, uncertainty loomed over the wait duration. After waiting for an hour on hold I pressed the numbers to opt for a callback. I was promptly disconnected. The callback never happened.

My next call was to United Airlines to reschedule my flights. That call proved pleasantly efficient. They provided an estimated wait time, offered a callback option, (which I chose), and adhered to the scheduled callback time. The experience was remarkably rewarding.

The reputation of the insurance industry often teeters on precarious ground due to its nature (loss, pain, suffering). However, certain areas should not contribute to this degradation. The customer service call center, for instance, should not resemble a black hole. An easily attainable aspect for bolstering a positive reputation in the insurance industry lies in providing quality customer experiences through the service call line.

While some companies excel in this regard, others falter. The first straightforward solution entails establishing specific service requirements for the claims administrators, be they self-administered or TPAs. Language options, clarity of communication, and ease of scheduling are both integral to the customer experience.

Additionally, CEOs of both the TPA and insurance companies should regularly engage in the customer service call process, ideally once a month.

If every employee knows that the CEO (or Chairman of the Board) will personally engage with the call center at least once a month, it will ensure accountability across the hierarchy. From frontline call center staff to the VP overseeing the Call Center, everyone will strive to ensure the system functions as promised.

The customer service process can be especially precarious when technology changes are implemented. Some of these changes can be new equipment or the implementation of AI in developing responses and triaging the problems. By having senior management occasionally test the customer service process (particularly after a technology change) companies will foster a culture of accountability and excellence in customer service, thus solidifying their reputation in the industry.

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