AI a boost for BCBS Illinois customer service

To enhance its customer service,  Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois is looking to artificial intelligence. 

Greg Brown, chief customer service officer at BCBS Illinois, recently sat down with Becker's to explain the insurer's approach to member expectations. The insurer was recently named the best plan for customer service in Illinois and Indiana by J.D. Power. 

Mr. Brown said an AI program coaches customer service employees while they are on the phone with members. The program uses sentiment analysis to pick up what a member is saying, and prompt employees to offer more helpful responses. 

The prompts supplement the coaching employees receive from their managers, Mr. Brown said. The insurer's investments in AI are designed to enable employees to deliver a better experience for members, employers and providers — meaning the human-powered aspect of the program is "critically important," he said. 

"For example, if a member called in and said I was just in the hospital last week, an empathy cue would prompt the customer advocate to acknowledge that and ask how the member is doing, and if there's anything they need," Mr. Brown said. 

Natural language processing also helps route calls to the best customer service employee to help, Mr. Brown said. The system routes more complex problems to the most experienced employees. 

The AI assistance helped boost BCBS Illinois' net promoter scores, Mr. Brown said, and cut down on the number of incoming calls and time to resolve issues. 

"It's been a win-win across the board. Quite frankly, the overall satisfaction of our employees has gone up as well," he said. 

The program also flags opportunities to improve a member's customer experience, he said, and sends potential issues to the customer loyalty team. 

"Those are the most experienced customer advocates that we have, and they review those calls and they make outbounds to the member to ensure if there's any sort of issue, they will resolve it quickly," Mr. Brown said. "I think that's one of the reasons why we're getting really good at resolving problems or complaints." 

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