4 Ways to Prepare Your Healthcare Contact Center for Open Enrollment Season


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Open enrollment season is approaching fast. Is your business equipped to handle the increased call volume and demands while also maintaining high-quality service? That’s the struggle facing every healthcare payer, but it’s one you can overcome by taking the right preparations for your internal team working with the right outsourced contact center. Here’s what you need to do over the next few months to maintain customer satisfaction with your healthcare enrollment call center and increase your bottom line in the midst of open enrollment.


Hire the Right People Now

With the U.S. unemployment rate lingering around 3.7% for the last few months, companies across industries are having flashbacks to the difficult 2018 hiring season. Low talent pool levels already strain the hiring process, but the coincidence with companies preparing for holiday season customer service means that there will be a pronounced shortage of experienced contact center agents. The closer we get to open enrollment, the harder hiring will be.


One way to decrease that difficulty and reduce bad hires is to create the right contact center agent profile in advance of your hiring initiative. What qualities should you search for? As with standard contact center agents, your open enrollment team should be adaptable, learn quickly, and have a critical eye for details to answer policy questions and help personalize each customer’s coverage. Moreover, you want agents who are empathetic, approaching your members with warmth and patience. For example, those customers exhausted by the challenges of pre-existing medical condition waiting periods will appreciate agents who work to understand their challenges and genuinely help rather than feeding them canned responses.


Another way to ramp up your enrollment season workforce is to ensure that you are recruiting from the most effective talent sources. Though it’s hard to gauge this on the fly, working with an outsourced contact center can elevate the level of quality sources feeding into your hiring funnel. And because an outsourcer sees thousands of potential candidates each year, they’re far more proficient at filtering out bad hires who will result in higher attrition.


Train (Don’t Hire) for Expertise

With contact center specialization such as healthcare customer service solutions, there’s an assumption that your open enrollment team should consist of seasoned industry veterans. We agree that when consumers ask “What’s the difference between a PPO and an HDHP?” or “How much can I contribute to my health savings account?” your agents need to provide clear and accurate answers. But where we differ from the assumption is that we understand just how teachable any contact center specialty can be – under the right training conditions. Moreover, ongoing talent shortages make a decision to build a 100% experienced open enrollment team impractical, stalling your onboarding process and leave you ill-prepared for the heightened volumes of the season.


Candidates who fit the profile in the above section will thrive in a carefully designed training program. For example, our TLC training programs are intensive and acclimate our agents to the brand, industry, values, and offerings of our clients. In this scenario, agents would be brought up-to-date with a comprehensive overview of healthcare policies, common questions, and the latest changes in healthcare regulation. That way, contact center agents are prepared to explain plan deductibles, what falls into out-of-pocket expenses, how coordination of benefits would work, and other specifics of their healthcare coverage options.


Another important element of your training program is that it doesn’t stop the moment your agent starts interacting with customers. Ongoing training is essential to keep agents adaptable and encourage continuous improvements. That’s why we monitor calls for performance, reinforcing their successes while coaching them on how to better implement open enrollment best practices. Having a formal system in place to encourage ongoing learning will provide your customers with a better overall experience.


Proper Workforce Management

The success of your 2019 open enrollment strategies depend on more than just who is captaining the ship. You need crew members at every layer of your contact center program who are thinking at a strategic level.


Workforce Management Supervisors are a prime example. Their expertise with workforce planning, even in the early stages of preparation, will enable your organization to forecast contact customer volumes and schedule the appropriate number of agents to promptly respond. Data from previous enrollment seasons, individual members, target demographics, and other factors help to pinpoint the appropriate response team size for the season and any given day.


When open enrollment begins on November 1st, an adaptive workforce management team will also protect your organization from getting inundated by any unexpected volume spikes. Constant vigilance on their part will keep your customer satisfaction and average handle times up to industry expectations.


Optimize Your Customer Channels

Your customer experience is judged as a whole, not as its parts. If your voice channel is outstanding but your live chat leaves customers lost and confused, then your entire brand suffers. That’s why your organization needs to have a command of omnichannel customer experience. Here are some key strategies for every major social channel:


  • Voice – The intricacies of healthcare insurance is already complex for some people to grasp. Now, imagine explaining healthcare coverage over-the-phone to those same folks in a language they only understand in casual conversation. That’s a recipe for disaster. Core concepts will get lost in translation and people will easily end up with the wrong coverage.

    That’s why it’s important for your contact center agents to have fluency in the primary languages of your customer base. Be sure that you review the demographics of your member base and make the right forecasts to determine which languages you should staff for during open enrollment season.

  • Social Media – As a customer channel, social media benefits from rapid reactions and proactive strategies. Consumers expect responses to their questions and comments within the first hour of posting. Good social media customer service fulfills that – and then some.

    More than just responding to questions asked through DMs or mentions of your official handle, you need to proactively search for complaints or questions that would fly under the radar. That way, you eliminate possibilities for your brand to lose face without your knowledge.

  • Live Chat – As a growing customer channel solution, your agents need to not only know how to use this platform but do so within the confines of HIPAA regulations. Fast responses are important, but not at the sacrifice of the security of member’s private health information. Be sure to train your agents on live chat etiquette, where to direct customers, and how to protect sensitive information.
  • SMS – This channel is one of the most beneficial for the healthcare industry. Among the customer contact channels, it’s the most likely to get responses from outreach campaigns. An effectively run SMS campaign can ensure that notifications about policy updates and impending deadlines are actually seen. In some cases, you can even automate responses to commonly asked questions by setting up triggered messages when potential customers and members contact you.


Over the course of all customer interactions, personal healthcare information can arise that, if improperly handled, could put your organization at risk of incurring thousands in fines. Encryption implementation, secure data centers, and regular audits across your omnichannel interactions can promote compliance that’s vital to your business and bottom line.


Ready to work with an outsourced partner for open enrollment season? Download Your Checklist for Choosing the Right Outsourced Contact Center to simplify your choice and improve the quality of your healthcare contact center solutions!


Thomas Moroney
Thomas P. Moroney has worked in the contact center industry since 1990.He began his career with American Express where he worked his way from Associate to Director of Credit Operations.In 1999, Mr. Moroney joined PRC, LLC, as Director of Client Services.He went on to lead PRC’s international expansion, as SVP Global Services, reporting to Mr. Cardella.Mr. Moroney also worked as EVP Business Development for TRG Global Solutions and more recently as CEO of Donnelly Communications, an Atlanta based boutique contact center provider focused on the retail and catalog industries.


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