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Mar
5

It’s not that hard, people.

Over the last few years I’ve been involved in multiple engagements with workers comp payers where their “vendors” just weren’t performing.

Responsiveness was…poor.

Problem solving was more client-blaming than taking responsibility.

“Proactive” was a word used in stewardship reports and entirely absent from actual account service.

Platitudes.

Excuses.

Sure, every service entity has problems – I’ve dropped the ball more than once myself. And there’s no question a client’s performance may be part of the problem and/or expectations may be unrealistic.

That’s not what I’m seeing, rather consistently poor performance seems to be OK with the execs at some service providers. My sense is there are two general problems. First, some service companies focus on what’s important to them, not to the customer. Increasing revenue, raising prices, selling other services, pulling back on commitments/turnaround times, adding fees for services that were previously part of the package – all are seemingly more important than just making the customer happy.

I recall a site visit to a client’s then-vendor where a senior exec proudly pointed to a wall of accolades for employees. The exec voiced delight at the many notes lauding employee performance. I looked closely…every one referenced an employee adding services, billing more, creating revenue. None referenced a delighted customer, a happy patient, an employer with a solved problem.

Is this what your customers are doing when the video feed is off?

“Success” = more vendor $.

Second, execs – and their subordinates – are not listening to customers. And if they do, all they are listening for is opportunity to sell more stuff. The execs are NOT asking how the client is doing, what they are focusing on, what problems the client is facing, where the client is heading – and what the vendor can do better and how they can improve.

Is this your client?

Many vendor execs aren’t seeking to understand what makes the individual they are working with successful, how they are measured, what is important to them.

Most recently this may be driven by COVID’s impact on claims volumes and the trickle-down reduction in medical services producing fewer visits, fewer medical services, fewer bills, less need for UR and case management and everything else.

But this was happening long before COVID hit.

What does this mean for you?

Understand and solve your customers’ biggest problems, and do it without adding to their workload.

Or fail. 

 


11 thoughts on “It’s not that hard, people.”

  1. Focusing on strategically aligned outcomes, and consistently looking for ways to improve those, is so critical! Thanks for sharing, Joe.

  2. Spot on, Joe. When did “mediocrity” become acceptable?

    Funny but not funny… I vividly remember an executive at a FORMER vendor of ours saying to me (privately of course): “We kind of suck, but we suck less than our competitors.”

    1. Thanks Tad – at least the exec acknowledged his company’s…status.

      that, unfortunately, is rather unusual.

      be well – Joe

  3. Spot on Joe. Some vendors are complacent because they have contractual agreements with these clients. It’s unfortunate that if they are not getting good value and good service that they don’t open their panels to vendors who can demonstrate great outcomes.

  4. You hit the nail on the head, Joe. It’s up to us to add value to our services every day, but so much time is dedicated to capturing every dollar that the scales are tipping on the side of revenue production vs. quality of service.

  5. The service part is just bad right now I am constantly asking the same questions over and over and not getting great responses back. It was happening before Covid but has really gotten worse now. Everyone is feeling stressed and as a client I am the client picture above. They have to keep up the service and stick to agreements. Also don’t try and sell me a service when we are already having issues with other services. You are right on with this and we do need to see the customer service get better again.

    1. Hello Mary – thanks for the note and observations. Hopefully your vendors will heed your advice.

      regards Joe

  6. Absolutely spot on. I am generally appalled at how accustomed the industry is to being used and abused by lackluster performers who just do not focus on their customers’ needs. My company sells certain data management services to the industry (listed myself as anonymous to avoid the appearance of self-promotion). Occasionally things go wrong. Something breaks or needs adjusting. Generally, our staff can identify and fix issues the same day – usually within an hour of being notified of any issue. Any customer problem becomes our overriding priority and moves to the front of the work queue. That is (or should be) common sense. The response is often utter shock; the clients appear to be simply used to waiting days or even weeks for issues to be addressed.

    The culture of service must be driven from the top, and expectations for these vendor employees must be clear. I once had a developer complain to me about one customer’s problem. They had made changes within their network that ended up blocking their access to one of our services. He was upset because he was going to have to “work to resolve a problem that isn’t ours.” I told him at the time that, if a customer cannot use our product for any reason, it is indeed our problem. We refer to that conversation now and then to keep people focused on what is important.

    We are not perfect. We make mistakes and drop the ball once in a while. But we are willing to acknowledge when that happens and work to make it right. Our discussions with our customers tell us that this is sadly not the case with some industry vendors, and the frequency of incidents tells us it is a potential systemic issue for the industry. Thanks for bringing it to the surface.

    1. Anon – thanks for the comment and your discussion of how you address this issue.

      Food for thought – and likely more important for many than what they are currently thinking about.

      be well – Joe

  7. Most of the mischief in WC is because of misplaced financial incentives. Need to align incentives to desired outcomes. Particularly for all of the vendors. This is not easy to do. (Warning: Every financial incentive has unintended consequences)

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Joe Paduda is the principal of Health Strategy Associates

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A national consulting firm specializing in managed care for workers’ compensation, group health and auto, and health care cost containment. We serve insurers, employers and health care providers.

 

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