Of mice and cats: How eHealth used proactive customer engagement to meet call center demands

To deal with the deluge of incoming calls triggered by the latest open enrollment season for the Affordable Care Act, eHealth – the nation’s largest private health insurance exchange – leveraged proactive customer engagement technology to deflect incoming calls and deliver a better customer experience. Rather than staffing up, eHealth was able to use proactive engagement to deflect calls, enhance the customer experience and contain costs, as well as free up agents to focus on more complex customer needs.
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Rather than staffing up, eHealth employed proactive customer engagement to deflect calls, enhance the experience and contain costs.

In December, I wrote about the two opposing philosophies that government and private insurance exchanges appeared to be employing as the 2014-15 open enrollment period got under way. The analogy I used to illustrate this was that of a homeowner trying to clear their house of mice. Is the solution building a better mousetrap, or adding more and more clever cats to the situation?

To deal with the deluge of incoming calls from those seeking coverage, the strategy of the federal and several state exchanges appeared to be the adoption of more and more cats, aka call center agents. They were hiring new agents by the hundreds and thousands in an effort to handle all the incoming questions and application status requests.

But, building a better mousetrap is often the better strategy. For instance, the largest private insurance exchange, eHealth, decided to employ self-service technologies such as proactive engagement to deflect incoming calls and take the place of required outbound agent calls – i.e. building a better trap.

eHealth’s approach involved gaining the consent to send text messages to applicants in a clever way and orchestrating multiple channels – email, automated voice and text – to reach consumers with important information in the manner they preferred.

This multi-channel strategy was a huge success in helping eHealth engage more than four million customers in all 50 states. In fact, eHealth saw a nearly 94 percent per message cost savings (automated voice v. live calls), a peak texting adoption rate of 70 percent and a 95 percent rate of customer engagement. eHealth’s story is one that’s not only applicable for other insurance exchanges, but one that any industry – healthcare, financial services, utilities, transportation, airlines and more – that receives a high volume of incoming calls can put into practice.

In an effort to deflect inbound calls and concentrate its call center agents on high value interactions, eHealth chose to automate a significant portion of the outreach required to communicate about missing information and to keep consumers aware of their application status. Working with Nuance, they implemented a proactive engagement solution to automate routine communications and to quickly compose and send ad hoc messages in response to changing circumstances, including deadline extensions and process updates.

Whether you’re a pharmacy benefit manager, a mortgage servicer or a furniture delivery business, this approach allows your call center agents to be better utilized to address more complex issues instead of answering basic questions like, “Has my application been approved?”

Read the eHealth case study and see if it doesn’t trigger some mouse trap ideas of your own.

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eHealth’s Recipe for Engagement

To meet growing demands, eHealth – the nation’s largest private health insurance exchange – employed proactive customer engagement to deflect calls, enhance the customer experience and contain costs.

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Vance Clipson

About Vance Clipson

Vance Clipson, senior principal, industry solutions for Nuance Communications, focuses on vertical-specific marketing and strategy with an emphasis on healthcare. Clipson brings 25 years of experience translating industry needs and data into market strategy and programs for Milliman, PacifiCare Health Systems and the American Cancer Society.