The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Searching for Medicare and Customer Experience

Voice of the Customer

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Searching for Medicare and Customer Experience

By Special Guest
Lisa Stockberger, Vice President and practice leader at Vanguard Communications Corp.
  |  December 29, 2015

As the old saying goes, you only have one chance to make a first impression. If you are in a competitive industry, you must understand what potential customers experience in their important first encounter.

My Customer Experience Test Drive

I’ve been hearing family members complain for years about shopping for Medicare Supplemental Insurance plans (aka Medigap), how difficult it was to research options and get a quote. I decided to test drive the experience.  

First, I went to the website. I found the site cluttered, but pretty easy to navigate. • To get a list of Medigap plans, I entered my zip code and answered one question about the state of my health.

• Next I was presented with a list of the plan types available in my area and what was covered under each plan.

• I picked a plan type and was presented with a list of insurance companies offering the plan,  their phone numbers, addresses and websites, but no pricing information. 

I called a few plans to see what the customer experience was like. My experience went from excruciating to pleasant. Excruciating was a voice menu that asked for your policy number four times, and never gave an option to shop for a plan or to talk to someone, unless you knew their extension. The only way to actually talk to someone is to wait.  Enter zero or say agent and you loop back to menu hell. Pleasant was a simple menu with a few options that quickly got me to a customer service representative.

How about my experience with an agent? In the best case, I reached a rep who took a bit of information then provided me with a quote – one and done. Then there were companies that routed me to two separate agents: one to gather information, the other to provide a quote. Others would only give me the phone number of an agent in my area for me to call for a quote.  Finally, coming in last from a user experience perspective, were companies that took contact information, and said an agent in my area would get back to me. 

Experiences with local insurance agents also varied greatly. My favorite was an agent who returned my call within an hour and, after chatting, recommended I sign up with a competitor based on my situation. I’m keeping his name and number for future insurance needs! At the other end of the spectrum, I got an email from an agent with a price per month on the subject line and an attached pdf for a 2013 plan in another state. But the agent supplied his phone number and email address: bigdawgxx@<email provider>.com. (Yes, that was the email provided.)

Lessons learned from this Medigap test drive applies to many organizations regarding the initial customer experience:

  • Check phone menus to determine if they meet the needs of callers. If you make it too difficult to talk to someone, you won’t even get the opportunity to make a sale.
  • Evaluate processes to balance customer effort with internal drivers (e.g., licensing requirements, relationships with distribution channels). This is a strategic decision that needs to involve key stakeholders in the organization. Customers are likely to go with a company that doesn’t make them jump through hoops to procure a service.
  • Mystery shop to determine what your distribution channels are providing as part of your brand’s customer experience. And check to see if you have a “bigdawgxx”  representing your brand who may be harming your image with potential customers. 

Lisa Stockberger is a vice president and practice leader at Vanguard Communications Corp. (

Edited by Kyle Piscioniere
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