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7 Customer Service Mistakes Health Care Companies Should Avoid in the Post-Pandemic Era

2020 turned the healthcare industry upside down, payors and providers alike. Precipitated by what happened during the COVID outbreak, member service and patient engagement have come to the forefront of their executive agenda. As you plan and prioritize your initiatives for the post-pandemic era that we seem to be inching towards, it is essential to consider fast-changing customer expectations and avoid mistakes in the process. Here are some of the most common, yet critical ones to avoid.

Common, yet critical customer service mistakes

1. Digital is a pandemic fad

Old man seeking digital medical helpWhen the pandemic hit in 2020, it triggered a healthcare pandemonium.

14.6 million consumers lost their employer-sponsored health insurance plans for themselves and their dependents and scrambled to find alternatives, forgoing it in many cases. Payor contact centers were flooded with calls about a whole host of issues such as coverage, claims, premium waivers.

Providers were inundated with calls about COVID symptoms, testing, and treatment. Emergency rooms were getting overloaded with patients. And physicians saw telehealth demand surge by 150% (Source: CVS Health Trends Report).

Meanwhile, contact centers had to deal with sudden constraints like lockdowns, social distancing, and a remote agent pool, while attempting to maintain member service quality.

Healthcare organizations that were further ahead in digital CX transformation fared better than others in this challenging environment.

2021 marks a new phase with the arrival of vaccines. As you plan your initiatives, healthcare organizations should note that digital is no passing fad among consumers. Here are a few stats to consider.

  • 63% of consumers say they had a positive experience with telehealth and 54% plan to use it more post-COVID than before. (Source: Accenture)
  • 42% of consumers said they use digital technology even for sleep! (Source: Deloitte Insights)
  • 6 out of 10 older patients plan to use digital technology more for healthcare. (Source: Accenture)
  • Forrester predicts that digital customer service interactions will increase by 40% in 2021.

Digital assistance at home for older demographicIn the meantime, savvy health care organizations have taken notice of this shift to the digital-first era. When surveyed by PwC’s Health Research Institute (HRI,) 50% of health care payor executives reported that their organization is investing in digital tools for product support and in mobile apps to improve the member experience. Providers are rapidly implementing applications such as the “digital front door,” virtual assistant, messaging, chat, and video visits to give more choice to patients and make their experiences better.

The key takeaway? Full speed ahead with digital transformation or risk being left behind!

2. Kick the cross-channel can down the road

As the use of digital service channels continues to accelerate, offering members a disjointed service experience will be a mistake.

A Capgemini survey reports that 75% of health care policyholders say they might switch providers if they don’t get seamless customer service across channels and touchpoints. Having to repeat information across touchpoints remains a major deterrent to good customer experiences.

The answer? Taking a hub approach to customer engagement instead of rushing to add point products for the moment. With eGain, you can deploy a digital-first, omnichannel customer engagement hub that unifies cross-channel conversations without compromising deep functionality within each channel.

3. Operating chatbots in silos

As demand for virtual health care services accelerated during the pandemic, many providers added chatbots to handle the member inquiries. These chatbots were meant to support front line workers such as CSRs and mental health professionals, and even offer diagnostics.

According to Frost & Sullivan, 90% of US hospitals will use AI and chatbots to save lives and improve their quality of care by 2025. But adding chatbots without ensuring that they are connected with other touchpoints for context and continuity is a mistake that many made last year. When chatbots are deployed in silos, the result is increased customer frustration and reduced first contact resolution.

We recommend an omnichannel platform, with the healthcare chatbot as part of the hub of interaction apps. The virtual assistant provides answers to queries, reaching out to backend systems to provide information. It can act like a guide, helping customers navigate the website and taking them to the relevant place. At any point, if the need arises, the bot can seamlessly escalate to agent-assisted channels, like chat , with all the context intact.

This way you and your members get the best of both worlds!

4. Failing to provide answers

Providing members with access to digital service channels is of little use if you fail to provide information and solutions for their health problems and concerns. This is why a rich knowledge management solution is vital.

Make sure the solution is powered by AI and reasoning and goes beyond just raw content to include easy findability of answers and conversational guidance. It is equally important that the same knowledge base is leveraged across all customer touchpoints, which is often not the case.

In a Dimensional Research-eGain survey, 57% of consumers complained that they got different answers from chatbots and human agents, reducing trust in the customer service capability of the business.

Once you have a knowledge management application in place, make sure to optimize your service operations and knowledge base with analytics!

5. Ask and I will answer

Proactive service is a cost-effective and efficient way to preempt your customers’ needs and improve health outcomes. During a pandemic, proactively providing information reduces the number of incoming calls for help and ensures that patients receive alerts and reminders to monitor symptoms and follow treatment plans. It would be a mistake to assume that this proactive approach will be any less important in 2021 as vaccine distribution progresses.

Send notifications for proactive customer serviceA notification management system gives health care companies the ability to manage and deliver automatic reminders, alerts, and notification over the customer’s preferred interaction channel (email, phone, SMS, messaging apps, etc.). A pharmacy chain and healthcare giant has been using eGain’s notification management solution to provide compliant, proactive digital service across SMS, email, and voice, by sending timely reminders about prescription status, pharmacy pickup, refills, and more. During the vaccination drive, the capability is being used in scheduling, payments, outreach, and follow-up. The company is now planning a 500% increase in its messaging volumes.

Results? Happier experiences for your harassed customers and cost-savings for your business.

6. Relying on a toolkit

Some digital customer service software vendors check all the boxes in the RFP response, but look under the glossy covers and you will find that you need to build capabilities from scratch with a toolkit. This takes time and resources, lengthening the time lag between your investment and your ROI. With the pressure to accelerate digital transformation stronger than ever, this puts you at a disadvantage.

The answer? Look for solutions that offer rich capabilities out of the box and quick time to value.

Profitable healthcare service

7. Failing to aim high enough

The time to benchmark member experience against your peers only in your industry is past. The standard members hold healthcare organizations to is now set by digital giants like Amazon and Netflix. To ensure your members remain loyal, plan to match digital giants in customer service before your peers do.

Conclusion

2021 is a transition year and experts predict a return to normalcy only by the fourth quarter of the year. To best serve your health care customer base, we highly recommend you take a digital-first approach, while avoiding the above mistakes.