Insurance companies across America place a strong emphasis on customer satisfaction today compared 10 or 20 years ago. It makes sense. Today’s members are also consumers. High out-of-pocket costs are opening their eyes to the cost of care. New benefit designs require more engagement. And millions of Americans have shopped for coverage on the health insurance marketplace under the Affordable Care Act.

That’s why most carriers have added a Chief Experience Officer (CXO) to their staff. This relatively new position is one part executive, one part process engineer and one part diplomat. In a nutshell, they have:

  • Executive authority. The CXO is responsible for the end-to-end member experience, and their office in the C-suite grants them the authority to influence plan designs, change policies and tackle gnarly administrative issues throughout the company.
  • Re-engineering responsibilities. The typical CXO spends a significant amount of time mapping and analyzing complex processes from member enrollment to claims processing. This in-depth look at the consumer “journey” helps the CXO make improvements in consumer touchpoints. You’ll find them working behind the scenes on improved find-a-doctor tools, easier-to-read explanations of benefits, redesigned welcome kits, and more.
  • Diplomatic duties. The CXO role is both proactive and reactive. This executive works proactively with Human Resources to develop a consumer-centric corporate culture, and many convene a circle of external influencers, often called a member advisory council, to provide input and feedback. Their true diplomatic responsibilities kick in, however, when something goes haywire: They’ll be the first on-the-scene when ID cards are incorrect, the phone system breaks down or Twitter complaints threaten to draw media attention.

Adding a CXO is a classic win-win move that’s paying off for beneficiaries, for employers, and for carriers. McKinsey & Company research indicates that improving the customer experience leads to five key benefits:

  • Lower churn rates. Satisfied health insurance customers are five times more likely to renew their plan than those who are dissatisfied.
  • Innovative, trend-bending benefit designs. Member satisfaction makes it easier for carriers to convince employers to adopt innovative benefit approaches, which have the potential to decrease medical cost trends.
  • Reduced administrative costs. Research shows that satisfied customers have a better understanding of their plan and are more likely to follow the requirements. The impact? Fewer calls to customer service and fewer complaints.
  • Lower medical costs, better outcomes. Satisfied customers are more likely to be engaged in their care. For example, they’re more willing to enter a care management program and more likely to use medications properly.
  • Payers are facing new challenges via technology disruptors and providers who want to work directly with consumers. Strong member engagement helps to diffuse those influences.

What’s ahead? Forbes says CXOs will continue to focus on delivering their company’s brand promises, reorienting the business strategy to the customers’ point-of-view and testing new products from the customer-experience perspective.

The bottom line for employers? A health plan with a CXO is likely to be “friendlier” to members, which takes pressure off from employer’s benefit departments. And it could become more cost-effective, which is good news for future premiums.

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