Customer Satisfaction On Whose Terms?

I needed to call my health insurer recently to resolve a potential problem (i.e., I wasn’t sure we’d be given credit for my annual physical and blood work, impacting our premiums in 2015). Before I got to speak with someone, I had to find my way through a maze of electronic prompts, of course. When I reached what I hoped was the end of the line, I had to hear the dreaded “This call may be monitored for quality assurance” and “Please stay on the line…your call is very important to us” a few more times than I’d like.

When I heard those sentences, what was my reaction as the customer? Eye rolling. Groaning. Muttering under my breath. Cursing the people who invented the automated answering device. Most of all, wondering how this hands-off approach to dealing with customers came to be known as “customer service”.

Finally, I did speak to someone…who wasn’t a good listener. She didn’t seem to understand my dilemma, regardless of how I phrased it. From her manner and voice, I sensed the CSR was trying to follow a script rather than listen to my concern.

If that health insurer had asked for my input right away, I’d have told them how frustrated and dissatisfied I was. On a 0-10 scale, “0” being the bottom and “10” being the top, I would have rated them a “1”.

The health insurer didn’t ask, though I’m sure they will send me a customer survey at some point. When that survey arrives, will I recall the difficulty I had with the CSR the previous October? Probably, since I wrote about the incident the day after it occurred. Normally I wouldn’t, so that they could count on me giving them no worse than a “satisfactory” rating overall, had I not put fingers to keyboard. We don’t recall events well when we don’t put the facts and our observations in written form. (Maybe that’s what the insurance company is counting on.)

Here’s an interesting fact about the health insurance company’s ratings. “” gives this company four-and-a-half of five stars[1] while “” gives the same company 1-1/2 of 5 stars[2]. This provokes a few questions, like “Who was sampled?”, “What questions were asked?”, “How were the questions presented?”, and “Does the survey company have ties to the company or industry?”

If two ratings companies can’t agree on how poorly or how well the insurer is doing, how can we trust either source? Even if we could safely assume the survey rating the insurer 4.5 of a possible 5 is more accurate, should the insurer be satisfied with an 87.5% approval rating and leave it at that? Or, should it also take a long look at the 12.5% who disapproved? Is the time-honored customer survey the best way to measure customer satisfaction?

If I were to audit, or measure, this health insurance company against the Customer Satisfaction clause of ISO 9001:2008…well, let’s just say it would be a very interesting audit. As a matter of fact, the company claims on their website that certain aspects are in compliance with the current version of ISO 9001; providing group health insurance isn’t included in that certification. You might be thinking, “So?!”

So, think about it the next time you deal with your health insurer, assuming you have one. How important is customer satisfaction to the insurer’s survival and business continuity? What do YOU think? Is there ample reason to be concerned?

* * * * * * *

[1] There were 155 respondents to a survey.

[2] 288 responded to their survey.


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Posted in Better communication, Customer experience, Quality improvement

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