The Emotional Customer Experience of Health Insurers: USA vs UK
Companies are in a constant attempt to differentiate in order to acquire and retain customers!!
Authors: Qaalfa Dibeehi and Kalina Janevska
UK private insurers can be considered to be in the non-enviable position of competing with an opponent such as the government sponsored National Health Service which provides universal health coverage. And with the healthcare reforms underway on the other side of the Atlantic, health insurers in the USA are about to face perhaps a similar challenge. Everyone has been overwhelmed by the forthcoming change in the healthcare system in the US, but really what is actually going to change for healthcare consumers? To answer this question, Beyond Philosophy compared the ‘health insurer’ experience between two groups: ‘UK health insurance consumers’ versus ‘USA health insurance consumers’ in one of their 2010 Customer Experience Tracker studies.
Surprisingly, the findings indicate that the level to which healthcare consumers’ are satisfied with the ‘health insurer experience’ is almost identical on both sides of the Atlantic (ie, 2.7 in the UK vs. 2.9 in the USA, on a 1-5 scale)! This is despite the differences in the healthcare systems of the two countries. Consumers under both systems state the same thing: ‘Dealing with the health insurer here is a bland, average experience’! One might say both systems are poor, so what’s new about that? Well, this is, in fact, not how customers feel. While both groups of consumers are equally satisfied, they feel differently about the health insurance experience. In fact, the only place where the two groups differ is in the emotional experience they say they receive from their health insurer.
The top three emotions USA health insurance customers say they experience in relation to their health insurer providers are: 1) stressed, 2) annoyed and 3)irritated. On the other hand, the top three emotions reported by UK health insurance customers are 1) cared for, 2) safe and 3) pleased. In spite of reporting the same level of satisfaction as the USA consumers do, UK health insurance customers feel: cared for, safe and pleased.
What does this tell us? Two things:
- Customer satisfaction as traditionally measured often hides an underlying problem in the experience as perceived by customers. This is usually indicative of the notion that Customer Satisfaction gets at the rational side of the experience but fails to account for the emotional side of the experience. This finding was alluded to in the classic HBR article “why Satisfied Customers Defect”. In this case, customer satisfaction with the health insurers did not seem to vary although the healthcare systems in the USA and UK are so different and more to the point, Customer Satisfaction did not pick up on the difference in the emotional experience health insurers provide their consumers.
- Health Insurers need not fear competing in an environment where there is a government sponsored behemoth (like the NHS in the UK). There is real opportunity to use the juxtaposition of their experience against a government sponsored compulsory one to better demonstrate how well they are meeting customer expectations.
Heath Insurers should buttress traditional customer satisfaction with an occasional review of the emotional experience they provide in order to be reasonably be able to meet customer’s expectations. This may be particularly important to help demonstrate why customers should select an optional plan over and above a government mandated compulsory one. Key is a need to focus on the experience rather than the service; the emotional rather than just the rational experience.
Do you think health Insurers have been missing this point? We’d love to hear from you in the comments
Photo courtesy of David Hilowitz
By QAALFA DIBEEHI KALINA JANEVSKA | Published: SEPTEMBER 24, 2010