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Rethinking Health Plan Customer Service

Margaret Dick Tocknell, for HealthLeaders Media, August 3, 2011

Here’s the good news for health plans: In just over a year, as many as 40 million new customers will enter the insurance market.

And the bad news: They’re primarily individuals and small groups.

Yep, the very business that insurers have more or less been giving the back of their hand to for years is going to be front and center. And guess what: these new customers are not going to hit the dance floor with just any health insurer. Nope, these folks are going to need to be wooed to be won because there will be a lot of options out there—including health insurance exchanges—to compete for the affections of this new market force.

A study from Accenture, a global management consulting firm, suggests that appealing to this new market will require a shift in marketing strategy from a wholesale to retail mindset. According to the study, customer service will be at the forefront of this change and health plans need to take advantage of new opportunities.

In December and January, Accenture conducted an online survey of 1,000 health insurance customers to try to get a handle on their attitudes toward the customer service practices of health insurers. The results indicate that customer service isn’t meeting customer expectations in terms of personal service, convenience, and technology. And, 64% of the respondents said they left one insurer and moved to another because of poor customer service.

So what’s a health plan to do?

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