How HR Can Bring Customer Experience Techniques To Benefits
The focus on customer experience (CX) has been gaining popularity in recent years. The term CX refers to the experience a person has with a brand or company at every touch point along the buyer’s journey. A touch point is considered to be any interaction a company has when dealing with a brand. It can be pre-sale (e.g., social media or an ad), purchasing (e.g., salesperson or packaging) or post-sale (e.g., customer service or billing).
At its core, you can think of CX as what someone feels about your brand when they are interacting with it. An outstanding CX makes everything easy and enjoyable.
To look at benefits through the same lens, think about the experience your employee has while they use their company-sponsored benefits.
Some companies depend on an open enrollment meeting where they distribute printed benefit booklets, provide lunch, explain the benefits over the hour and then leave their employees to navigate their benefits on their own. With a poor CX like this, it’s no wonder healthcare costs are nearly $15,000 per employee for companies. The system is complex; prices aren’t transparent, and most people (thankfully) use their health benefits infrequently.
For the last five years, I’ve been part of the team at HealthJoy, working to create a benefits experience platform. Throughout that process, I’ve used many CX techniques to simplify the experience year-round. Human resources can use some of those same techniques to make the benefits experience better. If you are working with benefits, improving your employee experience can start with thinking about CX. Here are some things to consider:
Employees’ Benefit Journey
Your most fundamental information will be a holistic understanding of your employees’ benefits journey. You need to dig in and experience every step along the way. From there, you can build a map of the journey as a whole.
It’s not enough to just guess at what the employee experience looks like. It’s essential to put yourself in the shoes of your employees as they try to navigate the complicated web of benefits we’ve built.
Most benefits packages have 10-20 different vendors, but I’ve seen as many as 100. At the same time, we’re dealing with a “customer” who has a really low level of benefits awareness. In fact, a survey found that 96% of Americans can’t define the four most common health insurance terms.
If you have a lot of benefits, your map of the employee experience can become unwieldy, but the process is worth it. Our ultimate goal is to anticipate an employee’s needs so you can remove friction. You can’t remove friction from a process you don’t understand.
The employee benefits experience falls into three distinct categories:
- Onboarding:The first experience your employee has with their benefits is critical. After they attend an open enrollment meeting and select their benefits, what happens? Are your vendors emailing your employees? Are people downloading their app? Do they need to go to your benefits website for more information? Are they reading the emails you are sending?
- Maintaining And Using:Signing up for company benefits is one thing. Outside of open enrollment, how many steps do employees have to take to use them? What is customer service like for all your different benefits? What is the support experience like when something goes wrong? What are the hold times for your carriers? How are their websites?
- Renewal: The benefits plan renewal step is an important one to map because it can often be complicated and confusing for employees. It will probably look different for every vendor. Are the costs going up for some of your plans? Are you using a benefits admin tool? Consider each step in the renewal process from the employee’s viewpoint.
Review Employee Touch Points
Next, you need to look at all the different touch points provided by you and your vendors. This includes apps, websites, advertising, brochures, etc. You also should understand the support they receive through their journey, call centers, chat, etc.
Touch points can be a source of friction for users, and understanding them will give you a lot of insight into your employee experience. A vendor telling you they “have an app” is different than downloading, and using it. Read the reviews to see what users think of it. Scan through their release notes and see how often their app is updated.
Many companies produce their own benefits websites. As you might already know, it can be an incredible undertaking to make a genuinely engaging benefits website. Creating a static website with WordPress or another content management system is relatively simple, but creating a personalized website that only delivers relevant information to an employee is a daunting task. It requires integration with third-party vendors and constant updating and testing throughout the year. There might be hundreds of touch points for your employees to deal with, but it’s important to review, map and understand the most important ones.
I’ve worked on creating a streamlined benefits experience for the last five years, and I can say that fully understanding the problem is the first step in making it better. Once you understand the potential employee journey, you’ll really appreciate the daunting task we are asking them to undertake. An alphabetical listing of vendors in a benefits booklet with phone numbers and websites isn’t a functional customer experience. It certainly isn’t the answer to lowering your healthcare costs or increasing employee satisfaction.
You’ll find that many of the touch points you identified are under vendor control, and you’ll have no way to change the experience. By mapping the entire customer journey, you can focus your efforts on eliminating friction in areas that are under your control: what you present your employees during onboarding, which specific touch points you highlight and the messages you present throughout the year. Improving your employee benefits CX will take time, but I think this discipline holds incredible potential for HR.