Technology Tuesdays: L.L. Bean’s First Class Customer Service

By Guest Blogger

This blog entry is part of Enroll America’s Technology Tuesdays blog series. The author is Elisabeth Rodman, Health Policy Analyst at Families USA.

At this time of year, what could be more fitting than a blog about online shopping? Just like shopping for gifts, shopping for health insurance online should be easy and straightforward, and companies should make superior customer service a priority. Many websites, such as Amazon.com and Zappos.com, are well known for their customer service. But today, I want to talk about a website that you might not automatically think of when you consider the online marketplace: LLBean.com. (Note: This blog is not intended to endorse a particular company’s products, but rather to highlight promising practices that offer a model for the health coverage marketplace.)

L.L. Bean has a top-notch customer service team that provides one-on-one assistance to anyone who needs help. It even took the Number 1 spot in Bloomberg BusinessWeek’s “Customer Service Champs 2010”, which analyzes consumer survey data on the perceived friendliness and competence of a company’s workers and opinions of its processes, such as return policies or reservation procedures.  

Why did L.L. Bean come out on top? Its website gives customers multiple ways to ask questions: Customers can seek “Live Help” using the instant message function, they can send an email or call a customer service hotline, and they can even enter their phone number to have a representative call them. Shoppers can find L.L. Bean customer service on Twitter as well.  It’s easy to find help on the website, with a “Customer Service” tab on the top right corner of the main page, as well as a horizontal banner at the bottom of the page. The customer service representatives are knowledgeable, friendly, and prompt. The only downside of this feature is that it requires customers to enter their email address and, for certain features, their full name and phone number. Some people may be hesitant to share this kind of information, but L.L. Bean seeks to alleviate this by guaranteeing that customer data will be secure, and so far, it has not had a problem keeping this promise. 

(Image via LLBean.com)

One-on-one assistance is exactly the type of help that applicants will need in order to complete the enrollment process for health coverage in 2013 and beyond. Although a good online interface can go a long way, L.L. Bean has paired this with real live, real time help for people who need it. It will be important for exchanges and Medicaid and CHIP agencies to provide consumers multiple avenues to seek assistance. L.L. Bean’s online customer service provides a good model for the online and telephone features needed for exchange websites. Of course, purchasing health insurance is going to be more complicated than ordering a new tent or hiking boots, but that shouldn’t stop us from learning what leaders in customer service are doing well and applying it to the world of health insurance.

Feedback Encouraged: This blog, and this series in particular, is intended to encourage discussion and brainstorming. Do you think a certain strategy or technology would work particularly well in simplifying enrollment into health coverage? What are the pitfalls or hurdles to overcome? What has your organization or state already tried that did or did not work well? We welcome your ideas via email (inquiries@enrollamerica.org), and in future blogs, we hope to highlight some of the feedback we receive.

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