Magazine article CRM Magazine

A Healthy Dose of CRM: Healthcare Organizations Are Striving to Improve Customer Relationships in Three Critical Ways

Magazine article CRM Magazine

A Healthy Dose of CRM: Healthcare Organizations Are Striving to Improve Customer Relationships in Three Critical Ways

Article excerpt

Suppose your customers were so dependent on a product you offer that without it their health would deteriorate, or worse, they might die.

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The repercussions for bad customer relationships may not be as serious for most industries, but they are very serious for the healthcare industry. Add to these such industry-exclusive demands as the need for prompt refills on medication, the need to alert those who require immunizations, and/or the need to accurately manage patients' transactions, and CRM efforts become particularly challenging.

These problems, while common in the healthcare industry, are not unlike those found in other industries, where they might appear in the form of product delivery efforts, customer communication campaigns, and account visibility issues. However, because so much is at stake in the healthcare industry, there is considerable pressure on healthcare companies to manage customer relationships well.

All these elements make it especially important for pharmaceutical companies to keep track of their customer data. Here, CRM magazine presents examples of how healthcare companies are using CRM strategies to solve some of these common, but critical, business problems.

Healthcare organizations can benefit by using call centers to check on people who use mail-order pharmacies and have not filled their prescriptions. Sometimes patients just forget, but in the worst case, they aren't taking the drug appropriately and can be risking their health or even their lives. "If you call an [elderly] person and they still have a full bottle of pills, you need to have a conversation with them about how often to take the medicine. People get confused," says John Quinn, a partner in Accenture's health and life sciences practice. "Calling to remind them about prescriptions is more efficient than inbound callers [needing to rush] when their pill bottles run out. Clinical data points to efficiency and cost reductions." A healthy dose of CRM often requires outside assistance.

Mail Order Pride

It may be hard to imagine that an automated outbound call would encourage customers to take action, but that's exactly what Aetna is counting on. One of the country's largest pharmaceutical healthcare organizations, Aetna experienced integration headaches in 2004 when it moved into the retail mail-order space. The company had purchased Eckerd Health Services' mail-order pharmacy, and operating challenges resulted in delayed deliveries. Products were supposed to arrive within seven days, but were taking as many as 10, which triggered a lot of inbound calls from nervous members. "There's a leap of faith that when [customers] place [an] order, it will arrive within a few days. We were trying to get a comfort level to say, 'It's delayed, but rest assured it will arrive shortly,'" says Brian Fox, head of communication for Aetna Pharmacy Management and marketing manager of Aetna Rx Home Delivery. Aetna turned to Silverlink Automated Voice Services to deliver automated outbound calling services. That choice drove down the amount of inbound calls: In the first month after the deployment Aetna saw a 10 percent reduction in inbound calls (6,200 fewer calls). The inbound call rate continued to slow until the automated calls were unnecessary.

Once its operations were under better control, Aetna shifted toward growth and retention efforts. "The immediate impact of using Silverlink was lessening the strain on the call center. This improved customer satisfaction and reduced costs associated with handling inbound calls," says Bill Brodnitzki, vice president of enterprise services for Silverlink. "Over time, we have started programs that are more revenue-generating in nature that started out having high ROI and have improved as we have optimized the programs by managing the message and call times." Silverlink continued working with Aetna to understand its areas of concern--typically, revenue growth, cost containment, and customer satisfaction. …

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