Health insurance satisfaction hasn’t been this high in a decade

Health insurance is a contentious topic, and everyone seems to have an opinion. The constant fear of rising premium costs doesn’t help matters.

So the fact that health insurance has an ACSI score of 74 – placing it in the bottom 10% of all industries measured – makes sense. However, what’s surprising this year is the score represents a rise of 1.4% to its highest level in a decade.

How did this happen, and what are some insurance companies doing to separate themselves from the pack? Let’s look.

Health care above all else

The lines between providing insurance and providing health care are beginning to blur. Insurers are prioritizing preventative care over emergent care. Companies like Humana are really taking this idea to heart.

Humana has a mail-order pharmacy, over 230 owned or alliance primary care operations, and a large home health care provider in Kindred at Home. Humana is also investing in digital technologies, including a multiyear partnership with Microsoft that’s all about “making health care experiences simpler to navigate” for its members.

Policyholders are taking notice of Humana’s efforts. Not only does the company lead all health insurers with an ACSI score of 79 (up 1%), but it also rates best in class for half of all industry benchmarks.

Like Humana, CVS Health’s Aetna, which inches up 1% to 76, is also embracing the use of technology to enhance health care. Aetna launched Attain, an Apple Watch app that lets Aetna members track their daily activity levels, offers personalized goals, suggests healthy actions, and rewards members for taking steps to improve their health.

The success of these companies’ digital initiatives is clear in the industry-wide customer experience benchmarks, where two elements stand above the rest: quality of mobile app (up 4% to 81) and reliability of mobile app (up 1% to 80).

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Companies struggling to keep up

Unfortunately, not all insurance companies are keeping up with patients’ growing technological demands.

Cigna, which drops 1% to 72, ranks near the bottom of the industry for both mobile quality and reliability. Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BCBS) rises 1% to an ACSI score of 71 yet finishes with the lowest score among health insurance companies. That’s due in part to poor scores for mobile reliability, perceived value, and billing.

Significant room for improvement

When it comes to the quality and reliability of mobile apps, Cigna and BCBS are anomalies. At the industry level, these benchmarks are distinguished among customer experiences.

Benchmarks like access to primary care doctors (79), access to specialty care doctors (78), standard medical services coverage (78) and expanded prescription drug coverage (77) are also contributing to the slight satisfaction rise in the industry.

However, while health insurance satisfaction is the highest it’s been in 10 years, in terms of ACSI standards, it remains much closer to the bottom of all industries measured. Suffice to say, it’s not all sunshine and roses for the insurance industry.

Insurance statements are still difficult to understand (75), the variety of available plans (75) could be better, and the timeliness of claims processing (75) still leaves much to be desired. And despite a 3% bump, call centers continue to be the worst aspect of policyholder experience with an ACSI score of 73.

So while customer satisfaction with health insurers is on a slight upswing, it has a long way to go.

The simple fact remains: The health insurance market is transforming, and companies that make patient health their main priority will succeed. Personalized plans, easier access to primary and specialty care doctors, and a focus on enhancing digital methods are good places to start.

Why you can’t always bank on your bank

Mobile apps are a critical factor in customer satisfaction. The data we’ve gathered at the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) proves its impact. 

But while brands are dedicating a lot of time and resources to the reliability and quality of their mobile apps, they have to remember that mobile is far from the only component that influences customer satisfaction. Just because people have their noses in their phones all the time doesn’t mean they don’t appreciate a good face-to-face experience.

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Banks are pivoting more toward digital, but are they going too far? Let’s dig into some of the data.

Shifting to digital too much?

As banks go increasingly mobile, elements linked to in-person customer satisfaction are taking a hit. 

For example, in 2018, Capital One sat near the top of the industry with an ACSI score of 81 (out of 100). This year, the bank sits among the leaders in customer satisfaction in mobile quality and mobile reliability. However, it’s near the middle of the pack in courtesy, branch speed, and wait time. 

The same goes for Chase and Citibank. Both scored well in mobile quality and mobile ease of use but ranked in the middle – albeit a bit higher than Capital One – in most in-person satisfaction benchmarks. 

The story is a bit different for Bank of America. It ranks toward the top for mobile reliability and range of mobile plan options, yet unlike Capital One, Citibank, and Chase, Bank of America is at the tail end of the spectrum for in-person customer satisfaction elements, including wait time, where it sits at the bottom of the industry by a wide margin. And unfortunately, unlike the other three banks, Bank of America had one of the industry’s lowest overall customer satisfaction scores last year at 76. 

Wells Fargo was the only national bank to fall below Bank of America, with a 2018 ACSI score of 74. Customers ranked the bank poorly across the board, particularly for its lack of policy options and competitive interest rates.

The in-bank experience is necessary

According to Mobile Ecosystem Forum’s 2016 Mobile Money Report, 61% of people surveyed use their mobile phones to perform banking activities and 48% use a dedicated app. And yet, 28% prefer bank branches for daily banking compared to the 26% who chose mobile.

You can use your mobile phone for nearly every kind of banking activity. You can check your account balance, deposit checks, transfer money, and even open credit, savings, and checking accounts. And yet, customers still feel inclined to visit their banks.

Industry executives recognize the importance of maintaining a brick-and-mortar presence despite an increased push toward digital. 

In 2018, Chase said it plans to open as many as 400 new branches, while Bank of America intends to open nearly 500. Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan even noted that 800,000 customers visit their banks every day, and 70% of the bank’s sales are done in person. 

And yet, given the importance of brick-and-mortar branches to Bank of America’s bottom dollar, the bank’s ACSI scores for in-person customer satisfaction are notably low. If Bank of America is betting on physical branches, it should do more to improve its scores.

Is the traditional bank model finished?

Some 49% of bank executives feel that the traditional branch-based model is done, according to a survey by The Economist. The reason? Digital.

Mobile offers customers speed, constant connection, and 24/7 access – everything they could hope for. Until, of course, it’s not.

But this is only a small piece of the puzzle. Retail branches are more than just a last resort for when customers are having technical issues with their devices. 

Face-to-face interactions are the biggest revenue drivers for banks. That’s why some of these banks are opening up new branches – especially in areas where they currently have little to no presence. Offering a sub-par customer experience would be counterproductive to this business model. 

Sure, other banks are closing branches and mobile is the major driver of high customer satisfaction. But as Wells Fargo Chief Financial Officer John Shrewsberry said, “branches play an important part in serving our customers and we will have as many branches as our customers want, for as long as they want them.”

Consumers might not always go to the bank, but they still like having the option. And they expect to have a quality experience while they’re there. Banks would be wise not to forget it.