Here’s a customer service experience that I’m currently going through that is incredibly annoying & frustrating…and one which MOST companies fail to address properly.
(BTW, I’m currently on hold with United HealthCare for over 20 mins now & I keep getting that stupid “Please Wait” recording every 30 seconds or so.)
Here’s the background info…
With the help of my good friend Marilu Apolinar (former USCC tech & current licensed insurance agent), I was able to enroll in UnitedHealthcare’s Medicare Chronic Care HMO/SNP (Special Needs Plan).
I’m not yet 65, but I’ve been on disability for 2 years now & therefore, am eligible to enroll “early”.
Word of advice: When you become eligible for Medicare, you should automatically get Part A (hospitalization) & Part B (medical/doctors). You do not get Part D (prescription drugs).
You M-U-S-T enroll in a Medicare Advantage Plan C with a private health care insurance provider (Aetna, Blue Cross, Humana, UHC, etc.) that will cover your medical deductibles & co-pays, provide enhanced hospitalization benefits & often times, include Plan D for prescriptions. You’re subject to their co-insurance & co-payments.
And the majority of times this is FREE (no premiums), though you still must pay the Part B premium of $148.50/mo (for 2021).
(Note: Even the $148.50 Medicare charge can be waived…you may get help from the gov’t…depending on your income.)
All this is FREE as you must use a facility or provider that is in the insurance company’s network & accepts their insurance. This is similar to your current medical plan provided by your employer…the “in network” requirements.
The companies charge -0- as they get reimbursed by Medicare, but enjoy discounted prices from providers because of their contracts with them.
You’ll often receive free/limited vision, dental & other health benefits. And the “office visits” (primary care & specialists) are deeply discounted!
You should enroll in a “Medicare Supplemental Plan”, offered by insurance companies like Mutual of Omaha, for an additional monthly premium, but they provide even broader coverage than Medicare Advantage (Plan C). These Medicare Supplemental plans are very similar to medical plans that many companies make available to their retirees.
Do NOT just go with Basic Medicare A & B.
Yet there are SO MANY senior citizens who have ONLY Basic Medicare!
Language barriers, unfamiliarity with these offerings, misconceptions, etc. often plague our elderly family & friends.
If you wanna be a GOOD relative or GOOD friend, then politely inquire about their medical coverage.
Yes, be nosy!!!
You love them, no?
Always wanna make sure that they’re getting the best “everything” for their money?
But be careful as there are certain time periods when you’re/they’re eligible to enroll in Medicare Advantage Plan C or Medicare Supplemental Plans (G, J, N, etc.).
Pls speak with a licensed insurance agent who is NOT affiliated with a particular insurance company as they’ll let you know about the best plans for your region & your particular situation. And they should charge you -0- as they’ll receive a commission directly from the insurance company you eventually choose.
I needed to call UHC to verify some information about my plan.
So I call the toll-free number that I found in a UHC-provided booklet for UHC Medicare plans and, specifically, my plan.
(I had previously tried to register for UHC’s website, but it wouldn’t recognize my information. I can now get access, but it provides me with only limited access.
I’ve already spoken with ~20 different UHC reps, a few managers, a couple members of their Executive Communications…as well as sent 3 Presidential letters, at different times, to their Chairman/CEO, President & every Senior VP under the sun…without getting an acceptable response to my issue!!!
Now I’m waiting for UHC Medicare for ~8 minutes, listening to beautiful music on hold.
I get answered, explain my situation & am informed that they’re actually UHC Commercial Plans (thanks, Google!).
And here’s exactly where my “problem” materializes…
The service agent offers to transfer me to the correct Customer Service Unit. I request their direct #, for future use & in case it takes forever for me to be transferred/connected there.
The rep did not have the direct toll-free #.
(Issue #1: Always ensure that your phone reps have the direct line to another group/fept/area if the customer is allowed to call that area directly as a normal course of business. Yes, there are times when you’re transferring a call to an individual employee or an internal area to which their direct # should not be provided to callers.)
She transfers my call to the proper area…but I’m holding for more than 15 minutes (with that damned “Pls wait” recording) before I finally get picked up.
That’s Issue #2.
I already was on hold for 8 minutes when I first contacted the company. Now, I’m being forced to be on hold AGAIN, this time for 22 minutes, before finally getting to where I needed to be.
But there’s an easy solution that VERY, VERY FEW companies…even the “best” service-oriented companies in the world…ever utilize to avoid this annoying situation.
It’s called “priority queuing”.
Normally, when you enter a phone queue (by directly dialing the number yourself or being transferred there) you must “wait on line”.
If there are 37 callers in front of you, you’ll be the 38th caller answered.
If there are 537 callers in front of you, you’ll be the 538th caller answered.
But with “priority queuing”, you’ll automatically be the NEXT caller answered, regardless of how many other callers were there ahead of you.
It’s very easy for the telecom specialists to assign “priority queuing” to the transfer trunk through which transferred calls arrive to their unit. Or, in some cases, assign your unit a unique phone line/trunk to which you transfer calls so that particular line/trunk only receives priority queuing.
It’ll provide much quicker service to those callers who HAVE ALREADY CONTACTED YOUR COMPANY, but now must be transferred to a different area in order to be properly surfaced!
Lemme explain with a real-world example…
When I was running Customer Service for Lehman Brothers’ mortgage servicing subsidiary (Aurora Loan Services), we used an outside vendor (Westlake Services, a joint venture between First American & my company) to handle all our property tax issues with our customers.
Yes, my Cust Svce reps were quite able to handle the basic questions regarding property taxes & “escrow” (the “extra monthly payment amount” used to cover the payment of annual property taxes) for our customers.
But if there was a dispute regarding the actual amount of property taxes due or a payment discrepancy or any matter that required further research, then we transferred the customer’s call to our partners at Westlake/First American.
In addition, my rep stayed on the call (to complete a “warm transfer”) to introduce our customer to the First American rep & explain the customer’s situation in more specific/technical terms.
But if the Westlake/First American Unit specifically dedicated to handle our customers was busy with other callers, then the transferred customer would have to wait on hold…along with my rep!
I didn’t like that…not at all!
Yeah, we had a number of specific performance indicators in our SLA/Service Level Agreement, including, amongst many others, a timeliness standard for “answering X% of incoming calls within 30 secs.
And everyone realizes how things are on Monday’s or during “the busy hour” so I wasn’t a really happy camper!
So I “politely requested” (er, demanded under threat of not renewing our contract) that Westlake/First American establish a “special/unique phone number” for me to use when transferring calls to them (different than the normal Cust Svce #).
In addition, I wanted “priority queuing” assigned to that specific line (transfer circuit) so that any transferred call would automatically be the next call answered by the unit.
Not only would that provide a much-better call experience for my customer, but it would also significantly reduce my phone rep’s wait time (as they’re waiting on hold, along with our customer, until Westlake/First American answers).
At first, they resisted, just like everyone in the world seems to do when you ask them to actually do something “extra or special”…or “different from what we’ve always done”!
And, especially, since their people really didn’t know what the hell I was talking about.
But once I was able to fully explain the request to their Telecomm people (Kyle Eddy, who later became my fellow employee when I joined First American in ’09) & explain to their leadership team that this would actually have a positive net impact (albeit minor) to their overall Service Level & have NO negative implications whatsoever, they finally agreed to implement my recommendation.
I’ll never understand why you always need to twist people’s arms to get them to change…when there’s -0- downside if/when they do!
At least with kids, you can force them to “Pls take your medicine so you can feel better!”.
Yes, my suggestion for inter-company spanking was apparently turned down! 🤬
After the change (which allowed my people to speak with a servicing rep & properly explain the customer’s situation…in “business speak”…with little to no wait time EVERY SINGLE TIME THEY CALLED Westlake/First American, my reps were happier, my customers were happier & we provided a much better service experience for a customer who already was experiencing a (perceived) problem regarding their property taxes!
A win/win/win for everyone involved…and no negative implications/impact whatsoever.
Now, had United HealthCare already implemented this “priority queuing for transferred calls” process, I wouldn’t have had to wait the “extra, truly unnecessary” 22 minutes.
I would have automatically been placed at the head of the line (after being transferred to Area #2), while callers already on hold (withArea #2) would’ve waited an extra fraction of a second longer to be answered.
It’s so ridiculously easy to do, yet most companies don’t do it! Not because they disagree with the basic premise, but rather, because they simply haven’t thought of it or are not technically savvy enough to realize that this capability exists.
I’d almost guarantee that YOUR company doesn’t employ this practice for intramural-company transferred calls!
This is how useful this can be for YOUR company, for example, when Customer Service needs to transfer a caller to Collections or Default Management.
Here, you have a past-due customer who not only owes your company money, but has actually proactively contacted you (instead of you having to track him down).
You don’t want the customer hanging up because it took too long to finally get his transferred call into Collections.
And for all the Customer Service “wise ass, er, guys” out there who are now saying to themselves, “Well, yeah, Mike, but MY people don’t have to stay on the line to introduce the call for a “warm transfer” so we’re not “wasting our people’s time!”, I’ll just tell you this…
Priority queuing for transferred calls ALWAYS provides an improved customer experience. ALWAYS.
And doing a “warm transfer” (introducing the call & explaining why it’s being transferred) is ALWAYS a better customer experience than “cold-transferring” a call.
And if you can eliminate any “waste” associated with warm transfers (like the transfering rep having to stay on the line with the customer until the call gets connected), then why wouldn’t you do it to provide enhanced service to your customers?
Trust me, “priority queuing for transferred calls” is ALWAYS a win/win/win for the customer, for your phone reps & for your company (the “sending” as well as the “receiving” area).
How ’bout YOU (remember that “being nosy” thingie above?) inquire with the powers-that-be to see how your company/area handles transferred calls?
Oh, and if anyone in your company disagrees with my premise, pls feel free to have them gimme a call (210-663-8532).
I’ll be happy to explain to them why they’re wron, er, why this would be an excellent opportunity to improve service while decreasing manpower expenses.
Give it a try! And pls take full credit if they agree to at least examine the feasibility of implementing this.
And if you win some $uggestion Program or Efficiency Conte$t, we’ll do lunch !
But you’re paying! 🤪
As always, thank you so much for listening!