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Carefirst Gets it Wrong and Then Gets it Right
28 August 2008, by , in Rants and Kudos, 2 comments

I recently had need to call Carefirst (my health insurance company) because they had made a billing error. I had paid my premium, the check was cashed (online proof from my bank) yet my account had not been credited.

I dutifully called the “Questions about your invoice?” number on my statement, and was on hold for about 15 minutes (which is typical with Carefirst, I’ve found). When I finally was able to talk with a human, she very kindly told me: “Let me check with accounting on this. May I put you on hold?”

“That’s fine,” I replied.

Two minutes later, she returned on the line to tell me “They’re very busy with a high volume of calls, and I can’t get through. I can’t wait any longer on the line with you because we also have a high volume of calls. Would you like me to put you in the queue there?”

“Thanks for nothing,” I replied, and hung up.

So let me get this straight: I hold for 15 minutes to talk to someone about my bill (Remember, I called the number specifically for help with my invoice) and then I’m told “I can’t help you but you can certainly wait some more, if you’d like.” So what I’m hearing is “My time is far more valuable than yours. Feel free to wait, but I’m going to go someone else now.”

Several days later, I called Carefirst back, again to check on this billing issue. This time, I get a recording that says “The wait time is approximately 16 minutes. You may stay on the line, or we can call you back if you give us your name and phone number” (or words to that effect). Wow! They’ll call me back?!?

So I gave it a try. Sure enough, in almost exactly 16 minutes (I timed it, you know), I got an automated call back, and within two minutes I was back on the phone with Carefirst. By this time, they had straightened out my billing problem and everything was right in the world.

I have no idea if this call-back service is brand new for Carefirst, or if it’s just the first time I encountered it, but kudos to them for implementing it. A call back is MUCH better than waiting on the phone.

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2 Comments on "Carefirst Gets it Wrong and Then Gets it Right"

Rao Kasibhotla - 26 August 2009 Reply

Wes, Before Aptify, I worked in the CRM industry for a long time and I think I can explain why CareFirst doesn't seem to care and put you onhold like that. The typical "wait times" with insurance companies is highest in the call center industry because they know they got you and you will wait. They also spend most time in "after-call" processing because of the regulations governing the customer interaction. The agents are not measured with their "talk time" performance in that vertical. On the other end of the spectrum is consumer products companies like Dell. Their hold times are industry's lowest and their agents are measured by talk times and some times number of calls they have taken. When you do get through and if they didn't ask "did I answer your all questions Mr. Customer?" at the end of the call, you know they are not evaluating agents for resolving customer problems the first time they call. They probably think they don't have to.

Wes Trochlil - 26 August 2009 Reply

Rao, agreed, there is clearly little to no market incentive for Carefirst to do better. Dell knows I can go find computers from several different sellers. CareFirst knows the odds of my switching insurance companies is nearly zero.

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