This last week I lost 2 working days on the phone dealing with a health care claim. 2 working days! You know how much I could’ve gotten done otherwise? I could’ve been in a better mood too. Here’s what happened: I received a claim notice that was clearly incorrect. On the first day, I waited for hours on the phone. Finally a representative picked up only to throw me back into the queue with no explanation. I had an appointment, so I used the online form off the website to contact them. They promised a response to the question within 1 business day. The next day, they called me when I was in the bathroom—I had no idea they were calling or when. The number they left…you guessed it, another queue. After waiting for over an hour, I finally got fed up and posted my complaint about their poor customer service on their Facebook page for all my friends to see. They promised to call back. Finally I got through after waiting on the phone again before they informed me that my doctor is not on the network (even though they are in network.) They told me there was nothing I could do. The doctor’s billing office (outsourced and took another several hours to connect) said they “just found out” and apparently there was a mix-up in paperwork, but they were in fact, in network. So who’s holding a bill I shouldn’t have? Me.
I’ve decided to make something out of this bad experience into something productive, a blog post! And so here we are.
I’m sure everyone has had experiences like this before, but we shouldn’t accept it. This is just poor business practice. It isn’t just healthcare--it could be anything involving organizations or people: customer service, intra-team dynamics, cross-functional processes, employee services, human resources, etc. Across industries, here are some hallmarks of a bad experience:
Practices that are sure-fire ways to piss anyone off. Some examples include making people wait for inordinate amounts of time, eschewing all accountability, and expecting others to fix it.
Be unresponsive for a long time. While you’re at it, time your response perfectly so you catch other people at their highest point of frustration. Enjoy the fireworks.
Make it hopeless. Give the impression that things will never change, the status quo must be accepted, and you will be of no help.
In contrast, here are some ideas that could fix a bad experience:
Design for them, not you. Develop some empathy (using design methodologies) for the recipients of your experience. Intimately understand what it’s like for them to go through the experience and how to make it ideal. Then design with them in mind. Especially if there are customers involved, it’s about designing for them and not you. This will not disadvantage your business at the end of the day, I promise.
Resource appropriately. Yeah, yeah, everyone’s busy. So it’s not a valid excuse. If you are running a business, you resource it appropriately so your customers don’t have to suffer the slack. “We’re experiencing high call volumes” doesn’t suffice. If you’ve got a peak period, get temporary resources if you have to. Don’t know where to source talent? Look to your customers as potential employees and you will get loyalty for life. My healthcare company has almost 3 million members with over 10 Billion in revenue and only 5,000 employees to support it. Balance some of those numbers out. If you are in a team setting, facilitate the conversation about resourcing with an eye toward resolving it.
Respond. Let me repeat, respond. Even if you don’t have an answer or you’re not sure, let people on the other end know you acknowledge them. I’ve heard about this infamous “Bay Area flakiness” where I live and I don’t accept it. Do what you say and say what you do. It’s a matter of respect.
Remediate to Rebuild Trust. If you have been a serial offender before, there is hope for you. Right the wrongs you can and rebuild trust by delivering extraordinary experiences from now on. Memories will fade and everyone loves a good turnaround story.
All it takes is one company, one team, or one person to execute these very straightforward solutions and ZOOM! Everyone else will be left behind to scramble. Imagine if a healthcare company decided to do things differently—I’d be the first to change providers.
Don’t get me wrong--the business of life is complicated, and I’m not ignoring that fact or oversimplifying here. I’m dumbfounded at how companies/individuals are so nonsensical about practices that can be easily changed and/or improved. I recall John Boudreau’s sage advice on what he calls optimization, finding the opportunities that have the most impact with the least amount of investment. I’d prioritize that. I hope you do too.
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