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Navigating Customer Support in Health Services: Insights on Trust, Automation, and the Human Touch

In the fast-paced and ever-evolving health services world, providing exceptional customer support is paramount. I had the privilege of engaging in a conversation with Thomas Jones, VP of Operations and Customer and Provider Success at Zeal, to discuss CX/CS in the dynamic healthcare field. Here, success hinges on the ability to strike the right balance between automation and human interaction, maintain trust as a valuable currency, as well as embrace emerging technologies like intelligent AI. Healthcare organizations that prioritize these principles will ensure that patients receive the seamless and compassionate care they deserve.

Through our discussion, I gained valuable insights into the delicate balance between automation and the human touch, as well as key concepts related to Thomas’ customer support philosophy.

Customer Support Philosophy: Making It Effortless

Thomas passionately advocates for a customer support philosophy that centers around making the customer experience effortless. Because businesses must adapt to meet customer needs or find different customers. This approach is especially relevant in the healthcare sector, where individuals often seek support during vulnerable moments.

Effortless customer support, as Thomas sees it, involves streamlining processes, minimizing friction, and ensuring that customers can easily access the assistance they need. It's about being proactive in addressing issues before they become major concerns and making the journey from problem to resolution as smooth as possible.

Thomas's philosophy underscores the importance of understanding the customer's perspective and being empathetic to their unique situations. Whether it's answering questions about insurance coverage or providing guidance on healthcare choices, the goal should always be to alleviate the customer's burden and simplify their experience.

Trust in Customer Relationships: The "Trust Account

One intriguing concept that emerged from our discussion is the idea of a "trust account" with customers. Both Thomas and I stressed the importance of building and maintaining trust in customer relationships. Thomas explained that every interaction either deposits or withdraws from this trust account, significantly impacting customer loyalty.

In healthcare, trust is paramount. Patients rely on providers and insurers to safeguard their health and well-being. Any breach of trust can have severe consequences, both for the individual and the healthcare organizations involved. This trust extends to the customer support experience.

To build and preserve trust, customer support teams must consistently deliver on promises, provide accurate information, and demonstrate empathy. Moreover, they should be transparent in their communications and take ownership of any mistakes or issues that may arise.

A "trust account" approach encourages organizations to view every customer interaction as an opportunity to strengthen their bond with clients. By consistently making deposits into this account through excellent service, organizations can ensure that customers remain loyal and satisfied.

Automation vs. Human Touch: Finding the Right Balance

During our conversation, Thomas highlighted how HiOperator leverages AI and workflow automation to tailor customer experiences. This approach enhances personalization and efficiency, enabling our team to handle a high volume of inquiries effectively. Yet, he also emphasized the importance of maintaining a human touch.

In healthcare, customers often seek reassurance, empathy, and personalized guidance. While automation can handle routine tasks, it may struggle to address the emotional and nuanced aspects of customer interactions. Striking the right balance, in his view, means using automation where it excels—such as routing inquiries and providing quick responses—while reserving human intervention for more complex, empathetic, and sensitive situations.

Future Trends in Customer Support: Intelligent AI and Beyond

Thomas predicts that intelligent AI, such as ChatGPT, will continue to evolve, eventually handling frontline customer service. This advancement will free up human employees to focus on more complex and high-touch interactions.

Intelligent AI, from Thomas' point of view, can provide immediate responses, access vast amounts of data, and assist customers in navigating their healthcare options. It can even predict customer needs and recommend appropriate solutions. That’s why data analytics and machine learning will continue to play a significant role in customer support. These technologies will enable organizations to gain deeper insights into customer behavior, preferences, and pain points, ultimately enhancing the quality of support provided. However, it's essential to remember that AI is a tool to enhance human capabilities, not replace them. 

Thomas also sees potential in integrating AI with other emerging technologies, such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). He believes these immersive technologies could revolutionize telemedicine and customer support by allowing customers to interact with support agents in more engaging and lifelike environments.

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