We are all familiar with the term customer. But have you ever really thought about who qualifies as a customer?
In essence, everyone is a customer, or potential customer, depending upon the circumstances. In the claims management world, the claimant is the end customer. But it doesn’t always stop there.
Our natural tendency is to primarily focus on the person utilizing our products or services as the sole customer. By doing so, we risk losing sight of the entire spectrum of customers in the value chain, and when we may play a dual role.
When we depend on another internal function (i.e. co-worker) to provide an answer, documentation, support, etc., to service the end customer, WE join the ranks as a customer as well.
In the disability insurance world, it is the disability claims manager who most often presents the face of the company to the external (claimant) customer. The claims manager is often challenged with customer needs that extend beyond the scope of disability.
A prime example is when the claimant has policies for multiple products in force (Short Term Disability, Long Term Disability, Life, Life Waiver of Premium, Long Term Care, etc.). This often leads to a disability claims manager fielding questions on other product lines, and in turn, relying on internal resources to provide the answers.
In a best-case scenario, the product specialist (Life, LTC, etc.) will accept ownership and follow up directly with the external customer. Either way, it is up to the claims manager to follow up to ensure that the customers’ needs were met in a timely and satisfactory fashion.
A common example is when a claimant receives a denial from LWOP and calls their disability claims manager in a panic thinking that their disability has been denied. Once the confusion has been resolved, the claimant will often have questions about the LWOP claim that the disability claims manager cannot directly answer and will rely upon the LWOP claim manager to either follow up directly or provide answers to the disability claims manager to be passed along to the claimant.
In this day and age, the result of a negative customer experience can be shared with a few angry keystrokes to social media. In the past, most negative experiences were simply shared by word of mouth to a few friends or family. If the experience stayed with the person long enough, they might have taken measures to submit an editorial to the local newspaper. The ramifications were local. Today’s potential impact is global, and not to be ignored.
Customer service – to the internal and external customers – should be a total company effort. It is not just for front line employees who deal directly with the outside customers. In order to do their job effectively, the front line employee needs the support of the entire organization.
Remembering that customer experience counts all along the service chain can improve outcomes, and improve satisfaction all around. That’s a win-win.