News & Insight

Will Chatbots Take Over Healthcare Customer Service?

Chatbots are seemingly everywhere and with the continued hype about their cost savings, it’s only logical to wonder whether the healthcare engagement center (contact center) will need humans in the future?

The answer is no, not if you want customers (that is, members and patients) to be satisfied with their interactions and with your organization. In the STARTEK 2017 U.S. Customer Engagement Survey, a whopping 88 percent of healthcare consumers told us that they prefer human interaction to interacting with a chatbot, artificial intelligence software, or IVR for healthcare customer service.

Chart: healthcare custom contact preference

Healthcare consumers used the phone for customer service more often (87 percent) than any other industry in the survey, compared to using email (14 percent), online chat (13 percent), in person (16 percent), and social media (8 percent) channels.

Source: STARTEK U.S. Customer Engagement Survey, 2017

Wanted: a personalized, human interaction

When asked to choose what their ideal customer service interaction would look like, 65 percent of healthcare consumers want to speak with “an individual who cares about me personally and both answers my questions as well as offers insights.”

This is not surprising, given the increasing complexity of the healthcare ecosystem. According to a report by Instamed, only seven percent of consumers could successfully define terms such as plan premium, deductible, co-insurance and out-of-pocket maximum. And 74 percent of consumers are confused by explanation of benefits (EOBs) statements.

Should healthcare organizations use chatbots?

While the survey shows that human engagement continues to be critical to member and patient satisfaction, technology can play an important role as well. Use chatbots, for instance, to handle simple interactions on public and member portals. You can use interactive voice response (IVR) to likewise automate simple interactions for those that choose voice channels, providing claim status, refill reminders, and other straightforward responses and information.

Once you automate the simple issues, what are left are the more complex, higher-stakes interactions. Your engagement specialists (agents) must be prepared to handle these complex and emotional issues in a way that shows they care.

Rethinking your member service strategy for payers and PBMs

Read the new STARTEK white paper, “Course correction on the direct-to-consumer healthcare journey.”

You’ll learn about the barriers to delivering the kind of experiences that drive member engagement, satisfaction and loyalty and how to use a two-pronged human-centric approach to overcome them.

Get it now