Get to know your new members to build brand loyalty


You know that song from the musical "The King and I" that goes "getting to know you, getting to know all about you ... "? It's time we applied that message to the health insurance industry.

So, do you know all about the 30 million or so new consumers who will be shopping through health insurance exchanges beginning in 2014? What does the ideal health insurance experience mean to your potential new members?

If you can't answer those questions at the ready, then you've got some studying to do. Without specific knowledge about this newly insured population, payers will fail at attracting new members.

Here's why: New customers shopping for insurance through exchanges don't look like your typical insurance member. According to a recent PwC report, people shopping for insurance through exchanges will have very different demographic profiles and health needs than the currently insured population. Newly insureds, for example, have a lower level of education, are more ethnically diverse, don't speak English as their primary language and haven't used healthcare very often.

"Looking at this demographic in detail is important because this new population makes choices differently than the currently insured population," Vaugh Kauffman (pictured), U.S. healthcare payer advisory leader for PwC, told FierceHealthPayer. "So it's important for health payers to understand those differences and how they reach out and engage with the individuals differently."

By getting to know this new population's concerns and preferences, payers can better tailor their products and services to meet the consumers' wants and needs. It also could benefit payers "to offer simpler product sets for this consumer base to select from," he said.

Essentially, payers should determine what the "ideal experience" means for the newly insureds, Kauffman said, adding that payers should look to other industries, including the travel and retail markets, that "do a tremendous job surveying" their customers.

Since payers don't have an "effective way to obtain feedback from their customers, there's a lot of room to grow in how to capture satisfaction levels, wants, needs and preferences of customers," he noted.

One surefire method to achieving that goal is leveraging social media. If they haven't already begun to use this multi-functional platform, payers should start by listening to online conversations about health insurance. Then they can participate in the conversations by publishing content on various social sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, to communicate a message, whether an educational or corporate message around products and services. The ultimate aim is for payers to engage with members and potential customers, focusing on actively interacting with consumers online. "I think the engagement level is really where a payer builds that trust and loyalty," Kauffman said.

Also, because the newly insured population doesn't frequently use healthcare, payers can help reach out to this group by providing simple language to explain benefits, helping them understand their options and why they're important to them. The caveat, however, is that this step will look like a "different type of outreach than what payers have had to do in the past," Kauffman explained. And since research has shown that consumers find the health insurance industry too complex and too hard to understand, simplification is key, he added.

Despite the inherent obstacles in reaching out to and building brand loyalty within the newly insured population, Kauffman believed the efforts represent "an opportunity as opposed to a challenge," as all steps taken will better position payers within the new retail-based market.

Plus, it might make you look up and learn the rest of the lyrics to that song you now have on repeat in your head since reading this column. Let me give you a head start: "Getting to know you, getting to know all about you. Getting to like you, getting to hope you like me." Quite apropos, right? - Dina (@HealthPayer)