We all look back on mid-March of 2020 as the week the world turned upside down. The arrival of Covid-19 in the US altered how we live and work. Of course, Covid being at its core a disease, all eyes have been on the healthcare industry and its response, on every level.
As I referenced in my last post, we’ve found many ways Covid-19 has had a surprisingly positive impact on the member experience, and in this space I’ll explain why.
But first, I want to point out that the primary change affected by Covid was to make the traditional paradigm of member support delivered from densely packed, centralized facilities an untenable one. Thousands of agents, all living within commuting distance of brick and mortar facilities, were sent home to work.
Was that a disruptive change? Yes.
But it was also freeing. Centralization is a configuration as fragile as it is efficient, being subject to the kinds of climactic, epidemiological or cultural disruptions that are increasing in frequency, tending to influence some geographies more severely than others.
Being freed from the constraints of geography brought even more benefits. Six to be precise.
Today, Everise’s recruiting net is cast over the majority of US states, as opposed to the handful of urban areas from which we’d previously done our hiring. Because agents value the option to work remotely, that benefit can be factored into new-hires' rates. Recruiting in rural areas, where the cost of living is typically lower, has a further positive impact on costs.
Everise gets to hire more selectively without the typical impact on wages.
With experience comes wisdom, and wise agents make for happier customers.
In 2019, the average licensed agent supporting Medicare subscribers for Everise had about 18 months’ experience – slightly higher than the industry average.
In 2020, the average licensed agent has almost six years’ experience to draw from. In the complex world of Medicare sales and support, it’s difficult to overstate how great an impact an additional 4.5 years under one’s belt can have on agent effectiveness and member satisfaction.
More tenured agents make for better experiences enjoyed by members generally, and the same Medicare subscribers whose ages puts them at greatest risk for Covid-19, in particular.
In 2019, which now feels like the old days, new agent training took place in large, tightly packed rooms filled with people living nearby. These classes were led by individuals of great competence – also living nearby – but likely more expert in some areas than others.
The pandemic ended that approach and forced us to re-imagine agent training.
Today, remote collaboration technologies permit surprisingly high levels of fluid interactivity between students and trainers, and as well as among fellow students. Pop quizzes keep trainees on their toes, with the added benefit of alerting trainers to potential comprehension problems early on. Subject matter experts residing anywhere within Everise can own and teach what they know best.
Re-imagined training offered free of the constraints of geography produces better-prepared agents that achieve greater efficiency, sooner.
4. Cyclical Hiring
The move to home-based work also helped the industry solve the long-standing seasonality problem affecting both in-house and outsourced healthcare member support programs.
Enrollment periods produce temporary demands on support that are many times higher than those experienced the rest of the year. Historically, large groups of agents were trained and put to work for just those few months, then either released, which is terribly inefficient, or allowed to sit idle – which is terribly uneconomical. Our diverse client list allows us to cross-train and cyclically reassign healthcare agents to financial services clients leading up to tax season, and from there to summer-heavy tourism accounts, and from there back to open enrolment.
30% of our champions are cross-trained on complementary lines of business, enabling us to keep our attrition low and retain the best people.
Cross-training efficiently and economically generates greater access to the higher quality work that full-time, tenured agents produce – in ever greater abundance over time.
5. Agent happiness
One of the thornier issues confronting home-based customer support has been data security, and the lack of an on-site supervisor to enforce rules safeguarding personal health information (PHI).
Here, too, technology steps in. Remote worker monitoring applications, such as our EXAGE Sentinel, use video to track agent activity and hide PHI or other sensitive data if, for example, a phone camera aimed at the screen or unauthorized individual are detected.
These applications can also use facial recognition technology to assess emotional wellbeing and assign each agent a score on a sort of contentment index, alerting supervisors if the score drops in concerning ways.
Agent happiness is directly correlated with lower attrition and higher efficiency, and these measures are directly correlated with more satisfied members.
6. Digital Transformation
The need to keep up with pandemic-driven demand for services has pushed providers to invest in new mobile apps and telehealth resources that will be beneficial long after social distancing rules are eased, especially in rural areas.
On the payer side, the pandemic caused the ranks of both newly unemployed and self-employed to swell, producing a surge in demand for high touch open enrollment support.
To contain costs, this has prompted new interest in Everise DX and our suite of scalable, AI-powered tools able to accurately handle many requests and back office functions for a fraction of the time and expense of a live agent.
New investments in artificial intelligence will pay off nicely now and in years to come, both in reduced costs and higher satisfaction on the parts of younger members who value the option of serving themselves over dealing with real people.
In the early days of the pandemic, it might have seemed unlikely that anything positive would be produced by the chaos it induced. And yet, thanks to technology and freedom from former constraints, member support agents are now more experienced, efficient, happier, reliable, intelligent and occasionally artificially intelligent than ever before. The impact on member sentiment is significant and serves to build enduring loyalty in spite of extreme circumstances.
Everise knows how to elevate healthcare member experiences, even in trying times. If you want an outsourced member experience partner committed to going the extra mile for you regardless of the circumstances – look no further.