Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Self Service

It's not like the old days. Self serve is the rage.

It doesn't matter if it is gasoline, fast food restaurants or bank ATM's.

Or health insurance.

Thanks to the miracle of the internet, you can go online, get a quote, then apply for coverage in a matter of minutes.

You are now entering the self serve economy.

Carriers have stepped up to the plate as well.

Want to talk to a live person?

Good luck.

If you can even find a number to call you are forced to speak and punch your way through an endless menu of choices that would make Survivor seem like a walk in the park.

Most health insurance companies have plowed resources into self-service Web sites for their policyholders -- Web site portals that display page after page of details on coverage. A handful even provide systems for maintaining electronic health records.

Yet the general perception, even among many industry insiders, is that health insurance providers are not customer-friendly.

Not customer friendly? Say it isn't so!

I am afraid it is.

Not only are carriers downright abusive and elusive to policyholders, they aren't much better with the agents who bring them business.

I know.

As one who has been in this industry for over 30 years, I know how frustrating it can be to handle even simple tasks. Recently I spent a good part of 2 and a half months getting a simple change effected for a new client who had been trying for 4 months to swap her low deductible plan for a higher deductible.

Why are health insurance companies so lacking in the customer service department?

Essentially, it's because customer satisfaction really doesn't matter to them,

Sadly, this is true.

If you are a pain to deal with they would just as soon you go away as they would invest resources to solve your problem.

After all, it is YOUR problem, not theirs.

An agent who is actively feeding them new clients has a much better chance of getting issues resolved than does a DIY policyholder.

Indeed, health insurance is such a distinct, unique product that it may not even make sense to compare its customer service outreach to that of, say, the telecom industry -- which also has a reputation for low marks.

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