How to turn an angry member into a happy renewal for your health plan.

April 27, 2021
Josie Rasberry

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If you offer any kind of customer service, odds are that you don’t set out to make someone unhappy. With that being said, even if you try your best, sometimes people are going to be upset with your company. Health plans of all kinds (from large health insurers to smaller discount medical plans) know this to be true. Healthcare is notoriously confusing, and confusion often leads to frustration. Healthcare can also be frightening, especially if someone is facing a difficult diagnosis or an expensive bill they can’t afford. Fear also can translate into frustration. A common scenario we see health plans deal with: 

  • A member angrily calls the health plan because they received a medical bill they thought was covered.
  • The health plan explains the member misunderstood their coverage.
  • The member is still angry, leaves a negative review, and doesn’t renew when their contract is up.

Sound familiar? Well, believe it or not, there are ways to avoid this scenario. In fact, we’re going to discuss ways to not only soothe an angry member but to also make them a happy renewal.

Offer someone who can listen and empathize.

As mentioned above, when health plans deal with angry members, a common source of that anger is confusion over coverage and bills. Remembering that their anger stems from fear and confusion can help you empathize with that member and be more receptive to their comments. One of the best ways to turn an angry member into a happy one is to simply listen to their concerns. In fact, one study found that 45% of customers took back their negative evaluation of a company if they received an apology, whereas only 23% of customers took back their negative evaluation in return for compensation. This is great news for the scenarios where you may not be able to offer a solution. Sometimes an apology and an attentive listener is all that's needed to turn a negative experience around.

Unfortunately, your customer service teams are busy and may not always have time to fully listen to a member’s frustrations. This is where patient advocacy can be a great resource for helping upset members. Third-party patient advocacy companies will give members a patient advocate with a listening ear who will empathize with their situation and work with them to find a solution (we’ve seen countless reviews with patients sharing this very experience.)

Find a custom solution.

Obviously one of the best ways to solve any problem is to actually come up with a solution. Although angry members appreciate an apology and empathy alone, you can make their experience even better by providing a custom solution. Once again, this is where patient advocacy can be a huge help for turning angry members into renewals. Patient advocates listen to members to create custom solutions for their specific problems.

Let’s revisit the earlier scenario of an expensive bill upsetting a member. One of the beauties of patient advocacy is bill negotiation. A patient advocate can take your member’s bill and work with them and the provider to negotiate down to a fair price. When an angry member gets both an empathetic ear and a financial solution, you can bet they’ll renew with your plan to keep that level of customer service. Plus, if the bill was expensive because the member went to an out-of-network provider, patient advocates can work with members in the future to find the perfect provider who is in-network and fits that member’s needs.

Final thoughts.

Healthcare is confusing, especially for people who don’t work in healthcare. It can be easy to get impatient or annoyed with angry members, especially if they’re being rude. But when you remember that their frustration comes from fear and confusion, it makes it much easier to be a patient and active listener. After all, when we’re upset all we really want is for someone to listen. For healthcare, it is possible to take that extra step and come up with a tangible solution for members in addition to listening. Patient advocates are empathetic problem solvers and are your secret weapon to turning angry members into happy renewals.

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