Health Insurance Companies put the Customer First

By: Clarabridge Team

October 12, 2016

health insurance

From a customer standpoint, the health insurance industry can be quite burdensome. Not only can healthcare be expensive for the customer, but many customers don’t have a pleasant experience with their health insurance provider. In fact, in the 2016 Temkin Experience Ratings, Health Plans was the lowest scoring industry in terms of customer experience, ranking “Very Poor.”

But, many health insurance companies have started to transform the way they deliver on their customer’s experiences. One such company is UnitedHealth Group (UHG). Clarabridge recently hosted a webinar with Paul Long, VP of Enterprise Customer Experience at UnitedHealth Group.  After working with over 225,000 employees who all need to be aligned in what it means to put the customer first, Paul Long has a wealth of experience in building a customer culture. Here are his experiences:

Your Customer is a Person
Becoming customer-centric means starting at the top. In order to best serve your customers, you need a solid understanding of who your customer actually is. At UHG, they re-evaluated their concept of the customer. They looked at each customer segment as individual people, really understanding their needs and pain points.

They started by breaking down their customer segments. UHG has a very varied customer demographic, each with distinct needs and health care concerns to consider. The biggest customer segments for UHG are Millenials (18 to 34 year olds), making up 30% of their customer base;  Baby Boomers (51 to 69 year olds), making up 30% of the customers served; and finally Gen X (35 to 50 year olds), comprising 27% of the customer base. To shed some more light on the diversity of their customer base:

  • 9 million Millennials are served by UnitedHealthcare
  • 11,000 Baby Boomers are aging into Medicare
  • 852 “new members” are born into the world each day
  • UnitedHealthcare serves more than 10 million members over the age of 50
  • Over 17,500 centenarians currently have a UnitedHealthcare health plan

So the question now becomes: “How do you serve each of these groups of people?”

Your internal culture is the foundation for your customer culture
For Paul, this is where the shift in culture has really been instrumental. UHG has shifted from a metrics-driven company to a customer-centric one. With every business decision they make, instead of asking how they can decrease metrics, such as “How can we achieve 0 defects,” they are now asking “How does the customer feel?”

It’s critical to stay true to your company values. Your mission should drive everything you do. For example, health insurance  employees should wake up each morning and ask themselves, “How can I help people live healthier lives and what can I do to make the health system better for everyone?”

But this isn’t enough. You need to also manifest your value outwards to your customers. At UHG, Paul asks himself, “Do our customers really feel like we have integrity and a passion for our customers, simplifying and innovating the healthcare system, and that we want to build relationships with them and act on their behalf?” At the end of the day, if your customers don’t believe you are delivering on your mission and cultural values then you really aren’t doing your job.

Listen, Analyze, Act
In order to create a customer-first culture, it is imperative to listen to what your customers are saying. This can be done by analyzing your customer feedback across channels such as agent care notes, secure emails, social media, chats, CRM data, etc.

UHG takes this one step further through competitive analysis. Not only do they ask their own customers about their experiences, but they also ask their competitors’ customers about how they feel about their healthcare insurance experiences. They don’t just want to improve against their competitors; they want to be best-in-class and move up the ladder against all industries.

To do this, UHG spends a lot of time understanding the key drivers behind customer satisfaction scores. Sure, they know when scores move up or down, but they drill in deeper to really understand why they receive these scores. “Listen, Analyze, Act” is the philosophy they live by.

Focus on Quality and Growth
For UHG, delivering a better customer experiences means a continuous focus on quality and growth. They are committed to meeting and exceeding the expectations of the people they serve. But most importantly, they do so on their customers’ terms. Ultimately, the customer is the one who makes the call on whether their expectations were met or exceeded.

Being able to put the customer at the center of everything you do is a cultural makeover that needs to be driven across the entire company. Understand who your customers are and be empathetic towards their needs, experiences, and pain points. Consistently improve against competitors and measure yourself against best-in-class, especially those outside of your industry. And at the end of the day, make sure your customer is the main driver behind every business decision that you make.

To learn more about how UHG is transforming their culture, listen to their webinar: Creating a Customer-Oriented Culture


Serina Aswani is Manager of Content Marketing and EMEA Marketing at Clarabridge. As part of her responsibilities, Serina serves as the voice of Clarabridge’s customers, highlighting customer stories and sharing proven best practices for implementing successful Customer Experience Management programs. Serina also oversees content marketing strategy and PR for the Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) region. She is responsible for establishing Clarabridge’s position as an industry thought leader across EMEA. Serina holds a M.S. in Commerce, specializing in Marketing and Management, as well as a B.A in French and Studio Arts, from the University of Virginia. Read more from Serina on Twitter at @SerinaAswani.