CIOs often hear the term “CRM” and translate that into “technology initiative.” Either that or they feel it is not pertinent to their industry. In perhaps no industry is this truer than in healthcare insurance. There the term can be considered sometimes as downright silly, and can invoke both jaded cynicism and derision. This is particularly true in the United States, and maybe that is in part because of the high embedded costs and complexity of care and the insurer relationships. It is also because of a misperception that CRM is about technology and marketing, when in fact it is about the processes that the customer is given to follow.
CRM is simply about better managing interactions with customers / clients over time. Better means clearer, simpler, unambiguous and convenient processes. In healthcare that is radically different from online retailers or utilities or consumer goods manufacturers, for example. I have heard healthcare professionals say that they have the issue nailed. That may be true: in many countries they are dealing with a captive audience with little ability to switch providers, and even if you can switch it is extremely difficult to make a rationale judgment amongst options until after the switch has been made and the new results compared.
Some Healthcare CIOs I have spoken with might think they are doing a better job than they are doing because they are not as exposed to the end customer: the consumer. The end customer – not the corporation that buys into their group plan – is in the best position to say what they think of the processes. I think of my own situation over the past twelve years of living in the USA and paying for healthcare coverage, and I have had dozens of situations where the processes of the provider have been cumbersome and expensive. They have generated excessive numbers of telephone calls, emails, escalations, repeat interactions with pharmacies, physicians, helpdesks, customer service, and corporate HR. Most of the glitches were explicitly due to poor process design and lack of information clarity. It isn’t about patient records, or about the amount of data collected and analyzed about the consumer. The problem is poor process design. That is the CRM challenge.
I also cannot think of a single instance in the same twelve years where I was asked for insight into what went wrong or right – despite having coverage for a family of five living in three States. Obscure codes, lack of synchronization between IVR and telephone agent, lack of coordination between pharmacy systems and corporate client systems, confusing language in coverage clauses, conflicting advice between physician, insurer customer service, and Claims adjusters, unanticipated gaps in coverage are just a few examples.
The net is that there is still a lot of room for improvement in the cost and efficiency of customer-facing processes in every industry, and it is not all about software applications or ‘making the customer feel good.’ Before we get too comfortable that CRM is a cliché, let’s hear from the customer. In the case of healthcare insurers, they have earned some of the lowest customer satisfaction scores across industry. Each industry has its opportunity to improve, and the form CRM takes in each is unique, and in no case is it about the technology.
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