Health Insurance and Airline Customer Service:Two Peas in a Pod

As I waited, once again, on hold with United Airlines and tried to work out the problem with my husband’s return ticket from Beijing, my mind began to compare the airline customer service and health insurance.  Let me say, I spent a total of five hours over 3 days, speaking to agents and supervisors.  It did remind me of my many calls to insurance companies for my clients.  Here are some of the comparisons.

1. Wait Times – Need I say more?  If you have ever contacted customer service, it can be so frustrating to have to wait for 15-30 minutes and resist the urge to slam the phone down.   It takes a thick skin to be able to wait out the theme music or in the case of health insurance, promos for new services.

2. Customer Agents- After having waited for an extended time, the end result is a person reading from a script and/or following a protocol on their computer screen.  No matter what you tell  them about your situation, they have to slowly scroll through the screen and see if what you are asking is somewhere.  It is often a situation where you are asking about apples and the agent is answering in regards to oranges.  Multiple calls for the same problem, will elicit different answers and solutions.

3. Getting to a Supervisor is timely and difficult.  Agents don’t like to give you a supervisor because it means they couldn’t help you.  I wonder if part of the work evaluation is how  many times the client asks for a supervisor.  I know when I ask for a supervisor, I usually have to wait 10-15 minutes.  Sometimes, I asked if the supervisor could call me back.  That would be a no because the earliest I ever got a call back was eight hours.  It matters to speak with a supervisor because usually they can actually help you.

4. Ultimate responsibility for getting it fixed/right is on YOU.  In the end, the solution is completely put on your shoulders.  In my husband’s case, it wasn’t until I figured out the problem, which was caused by the airline was it fixed six hours before he left for the airport.  it is the same with the insurance.  In order to shift through insurance mistakes, you have to be attentive to the ins and out of your policy, the diagnostic codes and the ability to read the explanation of benefits.

5. Insurance and airline tickets are costly- AND the service doesn’t equal the response from customer service.

My sage advise for years of speaking to customer service agents is, don’t ever loose your temper.  If that starts to happen you will not get what you need and no help.  Also, don’t make any calls if possible within one hour of any appointments.