Three Insights to Achieve a Great Experience for All Types of Customers

Three Insights to Achieve a Great Experience for All Types of Customers


Post by Chad Burkholder, Senior Vice President of Optum Customer Care Operations

When was the last time you were completely delighted by the service you received?  What company offered this service and what made it special?  While good service can be subjective, many service professionals like you and me are trying to find the best way to meet and exceed the unique needs of all of our customers.  In my field – healthcare, the topic is even more personal. And the complexity of healthcare can make it a challenge to achieve great service with each interaction.  At Optum, we are on a mission to help people live healthier lives and make the health system work better for everyone.  That means trying to find solutions that meet the needs of every person we serve, from patients, to employers to healthcare delivery professionals including doctors, hospitals, clinicians, and more.  So, how do we balance the needs of those we serve while managing the potential conflicts that may arise as we try to create a great experience for customers of all types? Here are a few insights that guide me in my role as Senior Vice President of Optum Customer Care Operations.

Insight #1:  The old cliché is true – what gets measured gets attended to

It sounds so simple.  Just have the right measurement in place and the data will drive your performance and focus.  If this is so obvious, why do so many organizations struggle to manage this issue?  In our case, Optum began a concerted effort to measure Net Promoter Score (NPS) a few years ago.  It has rapidly become the standard for consumer-centric companies trying to drive genuine customer loyalty.  At Optum, this measure is more than just a number on a scorecard.  We have made NPS central to how we measure success, including our employees’ performance.  Using NPS as a guide, we’ve created greater transparency and accountability, allowing us to more actively address the process gaps that impact our customers.

Insight #2:  Extend a helping hand to customers in distress

One of the fastest ways that companies in all industries can lift customer loyalty and engagement is by paying attention to situations where customers are experiencing difficulty.  We address this in a few ways.  First, Optum is building data-driven insights into the call delivery model to identify customers who may have issues we need to solve, prior to the customer raising the concern (based on past interactions, prediction of call drivers, etc.) Second, we have built in processes that ensure concerns expressed by customers through our post-contact survey are addressed, so that our customers know we are listening to them.  Both proactive and reactive measures help us get our customers the assistance they need.

Insight #3:  Listen to your most strategic source of information – those who serve your customer

Progressive organizations are filled with great thought leaders who have years of experience in customer service strategy.  They invest in experts to help build strong processes and tools to drive the customer experience.  That said, the greatest strategic asset is sitting in a desk right down the hall.  The customer service and sales professionals that serve our customers are by far the greatest source of real insight into what our customers need and expect.  Furthermore, the service and sales teams can provide insight into the barriers that the company creates for them in the attempt to best serve our customers.

We use numerous vehicles to collect feedback straight from that source.  First, we sit down with our service teammates to collect feedback and create true action plans.  This goes for ALL leaders; not just those running our call centers.  Our leaders travel the country and engage directly with our staff, asking questions, listening to calls, gaining insights.  These takeaways are logged and action plans put in place to address observations and feedback.  Optum also leverages a virtual tool that empowers EVERY employee to submit ideas to improve our capabilities.  We call this tool, “Bright Ideas.” Each suggestion is reviewed and feedback is provided to the employee who submitted the idea.  Suggestions are sent out to the applicable business leader for consideration and potential implementation.  As ideas are approved for implementation, we celebrate the examples and recognize the employee that drove the improvement.  Just this year our people have provided nearly 3,000 ideas; many of which have been leveraged to improve our business.  It takes time and effort to review, plan and implement ideas, but in the end it is a priceless source of strategic input.

Our journey to provide world-class service is just that… a journey.  While we have very specific goals in place, I don’t think we will ever officially “arrive,” as we are constantly aiming to improve the customer experience. The goal is to leverage insights to drive innovation in our delivery.  Investing in new technology, new service channels and deeper analytics is core to our work.  In the end, our goal is to ensure that patients, members, and healthcare professionals all feel that Optum is delivering on our mission – to help people live healthier lives and make the health system work better for everyone.

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