Survey: Members will pay more for better customer service

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If health insurance companies improve the quality of their customer service, they likely could charge more for their products. That's because nearly half of the health plan customers surveyed by consultant firm Accenture said they would be willing to pay more for superior customer service.

Payers must adequately address their customer service programs if they want to successfully compete for the 40 million new people needing insurance under the health reform law, notes The Hill's Healthwatch. "The health insurance industry must use insight-driven health to better understand the expectations of its unique customer segments and how to [enhance] customer relationships to impact revenue growth," said Russ Nash, who leads Accenture's payer business, in a press release.

Accenture found that almost 80 percent of the 1,000 insured people it surveyed said they expected customer service to be easier and more convenient. Additionally, the survey found that only 10 percent of respondents said their insurers "tailor my experience to match my needs/preferences," while 22 percent strongly disagreed.

Although the survey did find that 42 percent of customers had high satisfaction levels, it also determined that health insurers haven't translated such customer satisfaction into revenue opportunities. Only 7 percent of insured people would consider purchasing additional services.

Another key finding shows significant gaps between what consumers want from their insurers and what they feel they are receiving. For example, roughly 85 percent of respondents rated interaction with knowledgeable insurer employees as highly important, yet fewer than 50 percent were satisfied with their current experience; and almost 80 percent want access to customer service during weekends and evening hours, but fewer than half currently experience this convenience.

Another 80 percent rated wait time as important, but more than 60 percent said they are kept waiting too long by current health plan providers. And more than 80 percent said dealing with one contact at the insurance company to resolve issues is important, but 60 percent are currently transferred to multiple contacts to resolve issues.

To learn more:
- read the Accenture survey results 
- here's the press release
- check out The Hill's Healthwatch story

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