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Put your best foot forward

01 November 2016 Michael Temlett, Momentum Health

How do we rate customer service? It is often the first point of interaction, the first actual experience of the medical product purchased.

It is also the level of excellence at call centres, your go-to place to source information and a brand persona that you have supported and entrusted with your health client’s needs.

The house of pain

Yet, it can also be the place where disappointment is often experienced and relationships tried and tested.

Whether through lack of knowledge and competence to handle a particular query, or frustration levels that set in from pillar-to-post referrals; one thing is certain, your medical schemes call centre is an integral part of its success or failure.

In a call centre environment, service levels are directly affected by the number of available, present, equipped and well trained resources. The biggest impact on performance levels is under-staffing, either due to a lag in recruitment or due to absenteeism.

Another factor is not giving service staff the appropriate tools and training to perform their function effectively. No client looks forward to interacting with someone who does not know what they are doing or doesn’t have the skills or know-how to resolve their query or speedily process their request.

Increased competency

Some ways to help increase call centre competency include:

• carefully recruiting the correct calibre of service agents;
• proper, detailed training of service agents, which includes in-depth training on both the actual medical scheme products, as well as systems to offer operational support; and
•having a proper quality assurance (QA) in place.

Extensive QA auditing of actual calls are also done to identify service agent training and or coaching needs. This allows up-skilling interventions targeted at each specific agent.

As a further step to this, agents are also paid according to their QA score and their personal client service ratings. This allows for better alignment of incentives to overall business objectives and, consequently, much greater support from agents who know their dedication to a great service outcome can directly impact on their personal earnings.

Values alignment

We have found that aligning service agent’s incentives with the outcomes that we know will maximise client satisfaction has a significant impact on service experience. When agents are well paid for doing not just a great quantity, but also a great quality of work, we tend to have happier clients and brokers, happier agents, better retention of the best employees and better overall client retention.

By the same token, when underpaid for repeatedly delivering a poor standard of work, we tend to lose more poor calibre staff members.

Investigation tool

Through having a QA system, medical schemes can ascertain reasons for escalated queries, poor service ratings and repeat callers. This allows pro-active identification and addressing of agent-specific training and coaching needs, as well as underlying system and process enhancements needed.

Of late, social media has become one of the most rapidly used escalation channels for service-related complaints. Through monitoring social media platforms for brand mentions, medical schemes and their administrators can identify both delighted and dissatisfied clients and proactively get involved in complaints resolution, often to the client’s surprise. They are often unaware that this channel would reach the scheme.

Engagement via social media lends itself to great opportunities to turn a disgruntled broker or client into a delighted one.

If any scheme’s service offering is underlined by a sincere passion for service excellence and service recovery, the results will speak of strengthened relationships and satisfaction.

The well-known path

Annually, an independent South African Customer Satisfaction Survey includes a medical scheme member survey and categories tested include, amongst others, overall satisfaction and effective claims handling.

As we know, South Africa has never been known for its levels of customer service, but with people increasingly voting with their feet can you afford to let this spoil your company?

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