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The Affordable Care Act Seamless Transition: Communication Strategies

In a previous post, my colleague Philip Atkins discussed the advent of the open health insurance market and the key to retaining customers with a smooth transition into new services and plans.

A big part of this transition will be strategically communicating with your customers. The goal is to intercept your current consumers and educate them about your new plans and products in the most effective way possible. This will give consumers the confidence to roll over into these new versions of health insurance instead of diving into the open market.

An honest evaluation is necessary to pinpoint the weak areas in your connection with consumers: 

  1. What are your consumers’ preferred methods of communication? Is it based on age, lifestyle, or the technology involved?
  2. What is the current base level of knowledge about the health insurance market for your consumers?
  3. When did you last conduct an evaluation of how easily your consumers can reach you (and access the information they need)?  

 You will need to identify and shore up modes of communication that work for the market segments you want to target. It will also be vital to look ahead to new technologies that consumers will likely shift toward as they become accustomed to shopping individually for the coverage they need.

1. Identify (potential) communication issues

Consumers want to communicate—the difficulty is identifying what modes of communications they prefer, how much information they actually want, and when to intercept them. 

For instance, FGI Research did a study for one health insurance company (Company H) that was worried about how satisfied customers were with their interactive voice response (IVR) system. As technologies have changed, so too have preferences for how people want to communicate with companies.

We found that the problem is an issue of trust. Nearly a quarter of respondents only trust information provided by a live person, with a higher proportion of younger consumers responding this way. For Company H, a live conversation with a representative might make all the difference in reassuring a customer about different details in their coverage or in quickly addressing an issue.

2. Define different market segments and how they want to communicate

For Company H, there was a distinct discrepancy in familiarity and satisfaction with using IVR systems, rooted in connection to age and specific technologies. While older consumers have little or no issues using IVR, 25- to 37-year olds say they will not use IVR if there’s an option to talk to a live person instead. 

More importantly, 81 percent of respondents do not believe that the IVR will provide information specific to their plans, or in other words, believe that a live person is required to provide specifics to their health plan.

This is especially true among ages 65-plus. These consumers want information about their health and insurance, and while they are willing to go looking for it, using an IVR system to communicate details about individual plans does not seem possible to these consumers. They want a personal approach that involves some one taking the time to answer their questions.

This brings up 3 important areas that need to factor into a communications strategy. Age, preference for certain technologies, and knowledge about the details of individual insurance coverage all intersect at this point. By delineating which segments of your current customer market are at risk of drifting away due to poorly chosen modes of communication you can create targeted messaging that appeal to those specific groups.

3. Use targeted messaging strategies across different technologies

As alluded to above, when you pair messages tailored for specific market segments with how those consumers prefer to communicate, it can have a huge impact.

For Company H, modifying their IVR system in addition to developing other modes of communication would benefit them the most—whether it’s beefing up their website, or giving options for mobile communication. Another priority would be then making the system navigation and service options easier to use. 

What you can do:

  • Take a look at how you currently communicate the most with customers, and then match up particular channels with types of information. How are you distributing information about new service plans and upcoming changes? Recognize the weak points in how you communicate with customers. 
  • Set communication objectives. Once you have identified key information areas as well as problem market segments, deciding your next step is critical. Is it ensuring people in the younger cohort have alternative channels of communication? Or targeting a certain market segment with a new service plan?
  • Select communication channels for the appropriate segment target audiences. Whether it is modifying your current strategies or developing new channels, have a communication strategy in place first. 
  • Consistently evaluate the process as you implement new communication strategies. Does better communication effect customer satisfaction? Is it growing your market share?

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