Open enrollment is typically among the busiest times of the year for healthcare plan providers as the volume of consumer calls to the contact center increases significantly. During last year’s open enrollment period, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) reported more than 5.78 million calls related to healthcare coverage to its contact center. In addition, a number of Talkdesk’s healthcare customers typically double their contact center workforce to meet the surge in calls.
Delivering exceptional customer service during open enrollment is always a challenge, but promises to be even more complex this year. Members and caregivers are already under stress due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and will only have a limited number of weeks to make healthcare choices for 2021. In addition, many call centers are still managing operations with either staggered shifts or remote agents.
During this busy time, health plan providers need to ensure they accommodate the demands of new and re-enrollments while still meeting the expectations of existing customers. All of which complicates open enrollment this fall.
Plan providers have to ensure they handle the greater volume of calls, which are compounded by several factors:
One final challenge is that calls with new customers who engage in new plan selection typically require more time to process than previously enrolled ones calling with coverage-related questions. However, those existing customers still expect the same SLAs they are already used to.
It all adds up to an unusually complex and unpredictable open enrollment period.
As healthcare plans rush to secure member renewals while also maximizing new sign-ups, contact centers have the opportunity to leverage best practices and technology-enabled tools to contribute to the success of the business.
Here are some steps a health plan provider contact center can take now to help better manage this critical period:
Data indicates that the post-IVR abandon rate for the healthcare sector is about 7%. Oftentimes, consumers simply don’t want to wait on hold after having navigated a confusing IVR system. Ensure that your IVR is optimized to help minimize your abandonment rate. Consumers have less than two months to make a plan selection and with the abundance of choices, you cannot afford to lose potential new customers because of a poor experience.
Use a contact center system with state-of-the-art workforce management capabilities to effectively manage staffing levels, especially as agents are likely to be in a remote environment.
Highly trained agents are differentiators for healthcare contact centers, especially during the scramble of open enrollment. If you are looking to augment your staffing, look to bring onboard temp staff with healthcare contact center experience and HIPAA training. Consider drawing from a pool of vetted and experienced freelance agents with industry-specific domain expertise.
Not every member wants to speak with an agent, nor does every interaction have to be via a phone call. Consider implementing a user-friendly knowledge base and other self-service tools, such as AI-powered chatbots. Not only will you deflect the number of calls, but will also simplify and improve the customer experience (CX).
While new members may prefer to speak with a live agent over the phone, especially for important activities such as health plan selection, existing ones may be more willing to interact digitally. Omnichannel capabilities can help you manage the flood of calls during open enrollment.
“It’s healthcare, so there is no margin for error,” explained Elias Farah, chief executive officer, MEDFAR on why he relies on a cloud-based contact center during the recent CCW healthcare roundtable discussion. Invest in modern cloud contact center technology that is secure, HIPAA compliant and guarantees 100% uptime SLAs.
For healthcare organizations looking to flex their workforce quickly, medical call center business process outsourcing (BPO) partners can help meet their staffing needs. The right BPO will have healthcare-experienced agents who have been HIPAA trained and understand medical terminology. Often, contact center vendors or consulting service providers have established relationships with select BPOs and can help facilitate the process.
Make sure that your organization is focused on the right business metrics. Operational metrics, such as average handle time (AHT), abandon rate, customer satisfaction (CSAT) and other SLAs are important leading indicators that should be supplemented with business-focused metrics. These might include member renewal rates, new member enrollment and even member referral metrics. Because the contact center is the primary channel of interaction for members, providing exceptional CX is critical to helping the organization meet its business goals.
From providing better access to driving down costs, Talkdesk for Healthcare can help you reimagine the contact center. Learn more about how we deployed our award-winning cloud contact center at a Fortune 100 healthcare organization in just five days to help them ensure business continuity.
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