Insider Update

Broker blog from Delta Dental

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Customer service — reimagined

Customer satisfaction is about more than products. To ensure that customers are truly satisfied, the customer service they receive must be as outstanding as the product they purchase.

To take the customer service experience to a new level, we’ve introduced CX Reimagined, a training program that transforms the relationship between our customers and representatives, creating a transaction that’s more empathetic, intuitive and satisfying than ever before.

After two years of development, design and implementation, more than 1,000 full-time Delta Dental Customer Operations employees, including agents, supervisors and leaders, are scheduled to complete CX Reimagined by October 2021.

Putting the customer in customer service

Delta Dental’s customer service had been effective ­— in 2020, agents answered 12.7 million calls and resolved 99% of issues on the first call. It needed to be something more, though, said Ben Sieke, Director of Talent Development & Learning.

“Initially, our biggest goal was efficiency: Let’s take as many calls as we can as quickly as we can,” Sieke said. “But there was opportunity for us to look at this differently. Not to move away from running an efficient business, obviously, but instead to put the customer front and center. Every time somebody calls in, there’s an opportunity for us to delight them.”

Sieke said that while his team briefly considered purchasing training from an outside vendor, they quickly realized that the only way to ensure that this new set of customer service standards could be achieved was to design the training in house.

“We said, let’s create a custom Delta Dental learning experience for our people,” Sieke said. “CX Reimagined training is specifically for our employees, and it feels that way. It’s designed so that it feels real and relevant to their jobs.”

Answering the questions customers didn’t ask

One of the main focuses of CX Reimagined is to develop soft skills that enable agents to interact more effectively and personably with customers, said Earl Parker, Delta Dental’s Vice President of Customer Operations. These skills include empathy, active listening and de-escalation.

“Far too often, we want to jump in and solve without really understanding the issue,” Parker said. “So part of the training speaks to how you actively listen, how you affirm what you’ve heard to make sure that you’re going to answer and solve for the right thing.”

Another aspect of the training is teaching agents how to ask probing questions, questions that require more than a “yes” or “no” answer and help agents discover underlying or additional issues customers have.

“If our agents answered only the question that was asked of them, they would miss an opportunity to answer the bigger question, to solve the bigger issue, the customer has,” Sieke said. “Being a bit more empathetic and curious enables us to solve the whole problem at once.”

And these soft skills set Delta Dental’s service apart for the customer, Parker said.

“That’s viewed as by the customer as going above and beyond, not just servicing. And I think that’s important if we want to truly enhance the experience,” Parker said.

The results are in

While the intent to do better is there, one question looms large: Did it work? Did the training objectively improve the customer experience? Based on early results, the answer appear to be yes.

Customers rate Delta Dental’s customer service based on two sets of criteria:

  • Net Promoter Score (NPS), which is based on a zero-to-10 ranking of how likely customers are to recommend Delta Dental’s customer service to others
  • Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT), where customers rank the service they received on a one-to-15 scale

Since CX Reimagined was launched in July 2020, both these metrics have improved substantially, according to a recent study on the training’s impact. Also encouraging was that a performance increase was seen in all employees.

“What’s interesting is that the most dramatic improvements were among the lower performers, the agents who were struggling,” Sieke said. “If you weren’t good at this and were lacking these skills, you acquired them in training and now you’re doing a great job.”

This is only the beginning

For CX Reimagined, the end of this phase is just the first step in an ongoing journey, Parker said.

Among the next steps he envisions are an annual refresher training for agents and doing more to help agents serve the broker and benefits administrator communities.

Analyzing customer data more closely to understand issues completely is another goal.

“For instance, if we find that members with a certain plan option are generally more dissatisfied than members who have other plan options, then we need to look at the data to understand what’s wrong,” Parker said. “That way we can fix it so those members are happier with the product.”

And making customers happier through expert, friendly, proactive customer service is the goal of CX Reimagined.

“We want our employees to be fully engaged in helping our members and providers navigate Delta Dental,” Parker said. “We want them to be fully engaged in providing easy experiences for members and providers, and we want them to be fully equipped to provide these experiences.”

Clients rate Delta Dental’s onboarding process outstanding

The Delta Dental onboarding process is smooth sailing, according to new clients. According to the results of a recent survey, most new Delta Dental group clients found their onboarding experience to be exceptional.

Among more than 200 new clients who completed the survey, 98% rated Delta Dental’s Customer Onboarding team as very good or excellent. Also noteworthy is that the Customer Onboarding team didn’t receive a single negative review.

In the survey, clients were asked to rate the service they received from their Onboarding Project Manager based on these criteria:

  • Provided oversight on end-to-end setup to ensure the project stayed on track and overall client satisfaction was met
  • Provided timely response and follow-up to client phone calls and emails
  • Was knowledgeable about the client’s benefit plan
  • Communicated potential problems quickly
  • Provided service that met the client’s expectations

“The survey speaks volumes to the client’s experience during implementation,” said Christina Snyder, Delta Dental’s Director of Client Onboarding. “One of a new client’s biggest fears when moving carriers is the onboarding process and all the headache that can arise. We understand that, and that’s why we’ve been developing our onboarding process for over a decade.”

The Customer Onboarding team acts as the project management expert throughout the onboarding process. Each new client is assigned an Onboarding Project Manager, who leads external and internal teams through requirement sessions, documenting client expectations and managing the timeline and milestones. The Onboarding Project Manager also identifies, communicates and mitigates risks.

Snyder said that the Onboarding Project Manager’s goal is to ensure that timing and accuracy expectations are not only met but exceeded: “They’re the client champion throughout the implementation.”

Each new client is also provided an online client dashboard. The dashboard provides instant access to vital information, including:

  • Real-time timeline and requirements
  • Minutes and action items
  • A contact list
  • Benefits administrator documents
  • Online training sessions and demos
  • A client feedback survey

So remember, for your group clients, a stellar onboarding experience is just one more example of the excellent value and customer service your clients get with a Delta Dental plan.

Delta Dental gives access to healthy smiles in many languages

Language should never be a barrier when it comes to health care. If any of your clients have limited proficiency in English, direct them to Delta Dental’s Language Assistance Program (LAP). This service is free for members and perfect for employees who communicate in languages other than English to better understand their plans or even to communicate with their dentist.

The LAP offers a variety of language accessibility services, including:

  • The Delta Dental website in Spanish offers information on Delta Dental’s different plans, as well as articles jampacked with valuable wellness information.
  • Customer service is offered in 170 different languages. Simply call 866–530-9675 and request an interpreter.
  • Delta Dental’s online dentist directory is available in both Spanish and English and includes the languages spoken by dentists.
  • In-person interpretation services are also available for dental visits. If a member can’t find a dentist who speaks their language, Delta Dental can arrange to have an interpreter present during their next appointment. In addition to non-English languages, American Sign Language interpretation can also be requested. All the member needs to do is contact Customer Service at least 72 hours in advance and make the request.
  • Document translation to any non-English language can be requested for any written materials. Accessible document formats like braille and audio files can also be requested.

If any of your clients are having trouble communicating with their dentist, call Delta Dental to arrange for a qualified interpreter to help via phone. 

Delta Dental telephone numbers for interpretive services: 

  • State Government Programs: 877–580-1042 
  • Delta Dental Premier®/Delta Dental PPO™: 888–335-8227 
  • DeltaCare® USA: 800–422-4234 
  • DeltaVision®: 888–963-6576 
  • TTY 711 

What drives buyers of individual Delta Dental plans?

As you’re probably well aware, attracting new clients and pinpointing their needs can be challenging. To help you, Delta Dental recently explored the characteristics of people who buy individual dental plans.

PPO versus DHMO dental plans: What’s the difference?

A PPO plan, or fee-for-service plan, is a network-based plan in which enrollees can visit any licensed dentist, although they’ll save more by visiting an in-network dentist. These plans usually have annual deductibles and plan maximums.

A DHMO plan is a prepaid dental benefits product in which enrollees usually must visit their selected primary care general dentist to receive benefits. These plans have no annual deductibles or plan maximums — enrollees pay a fixed copayment amount for covered procedures.

Who buys individual dental insurance?

Anyone who has either had an employer-sponsored dental plan or bought an individual dental plan in the past is a potential client. Even clients who currently have individual dental insurance may be willing to change or update their coverage to get better rates or richer benefits.

DHMO buyers are more likely than PPO buyers to be switching from one individual dental plan to another. PPO buyers are usually transitioning to an individual plan from employer-based group dental coverage. Not surprisingly, the most common reason for this is because they retired from a job and lost their coverage.

What are some major drivers for dental insurance buyers?

Clients shopping for individual dental insurance obviously care about their dental health. That’s why for both PPO and DMHO buyers, having coverage for preventive care and being able to maintain the appearance of their teeth are the two most important factors in their decision to buy.

For PPO buyers, key factors include a dentist network that allows them to keep their current dentist. Consider suggesting plans that offer a large dentist network, which increases the likelihood that their dentist participates in the plan. PPO buyers also like to stick with what they know — we find that familiarity with a brand is an important factor in choosing a dental plan.

Among DHMO buyers, cost and value are more important. Key factors for purchase include low out-of-pocket costs, lowest price and the best coverage for the price.

Income may help you determine which products to consider for your clients. For clients with higher incomes, consider PPO plans, because we’ve found that these clients usually want the flexibility to see the dentist of their choice. Brand recognition is also important.

For clients who earn less, a DHMO plan may be a better option. Both cost and the ability to meet dental care needs are important to these clients, so knowing ahead of time how much a procedure will cost — and being able to plan and prioritize care accordingly — could be a plus.

For all clients, consider bundling offerings. Dental insurance buyers may also be interested in medical and vision insurance. However, they tend to be less interested in other types of insurance, such as life, disability, accident or pet insurance.

How do buyers like to shop?

According to a recent survey, the broker channel is a preferred method among American insurance buyers, with 43% selecting a broker or agent as a favorite option. That rate was higher among baby boomer and Generation X buyers, 61% of whom purchased insurance from a broker. Among millennials, 23% said they used an agent or broker to buy insurance.

The most popular shopping method overall was online, and most of the buyers surveyed said they used more than one channel to shop.

Among the most influential factors when shopping were an easy application process, followed by trust in the brand.

Is there anything else about buyers that I should be aware of?

Our research indicates that all buyers have a similar perception about value of dental insurance. They believe that dental insurance saves money on unexpected costs and makes visiting a dentist more affordable. Both direct PPO and DHMO buyers agree — dental insurance is a smart financial choice.

Selling dental insurance to the Asian American and Pacific Islander market

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. So what better time to learn more about this diverse community and how to better serve your current and prospective Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) individual clients?

Perhaps more than any other group, the AAPI community presents opportunities for dental insurance brokers who sell directly to individuals.

That’s intriguing. But when we say “AAPI,” who are we talking about, exactly?

While this can be a complicated and somewhat divisive question, AAPI is all people of Asian, Asian American or Pacific Islander ancestry, according to The Asian Pacific Institute.

This can include people with origins from:

  • East Asia (including China, Japan and Korea)
  • Southeast Asia (including Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam)
  • South Asia (including India and Pakistan)
  • Central Asia (including Afghanistan and Mongolia)
  • Hawaii and the Pacific Islands

In all, more than 50 countries fall under the AAPI umbrella.

Wow, that covers a lot of people. How do I cater to such a diverse group?

Not surprisingly, finding a “one-size-fits all” approach to attract and support AAPI clients probably isn’t realistic. For example, different Asian American and Pacific Islander groups vary widely in terms of income, education level, languages spoken and English fluency, and determining the specific needs of the AAPI population in your area will require some research on your part.

That said, a recent Nielsen report found some commonalities among Asian American consumers’ demographics, media preferences and buying habits.

They’re asking about you.

Broker tip: Building loyalty with your AAPI clients is important, not only to retain their business but also to attract new customers from their network of family, friends and neighbors.

When it comes to doing business with the AAPI community, positive recommendations — from friends, family and the internet — are critical.

  • More than 40% of Asian Americans surveyed said family members influence their buying decisions
  • Almost 30% said that they prefer to buy products and services their friends approve of
  • Almost 75% said that they read online reviews by others before making a purchase 

Speaking of family, AAPI households tend to be large. And affluent.

Broker tips:

  • Successfully attracting one AAPI client could potentially lead to a lasting business relationship with the client’s extended family.
  • Discuss dental plans for families and for seniors.

The AAPI community has a higher-than-average household income of $85,000, compared to $60,000 for the total population. Asians also have the highest top and median incomes among any U.S. population.

An important caveat is that there’s a large income disparity among specific groups within the AAPI community. For example, a recent Pew Research study found the following:

  • Asians at the top of their income distribution earn more than 10 times more than Asians at the bottom
  • Indian households have a much higher than average household income and rate of college graduation ($100,000 and 72%)
  • For certain Southeast and Central Asian populations, the poverty rate is as high as 35%

One of the reasons AAPI households earn more on average than the overall population is size. They’re 17% larger than the average U.S. household and are often multigenerational.

The multigenerational element is important, because heads of AAPI households are more likely than other populations to make purchase decisions for the entire household, including their spouses, children, parents and relatives.

The AAPI community loves technology and media.

Broker tips:

  • Consider targeted television and internet advertising to attract new clients.
  • Maintain an online presence, including social media accounts and an attractive, useful and up-to-date website optimized for mobile use.

Not only do AAPI households tend to be larger than the U.S. average, these households also tend to be wired. Among AAPI households:

  • 99% have internet access
  • 97% have a smartphone
  • 89% have a computer, which is 13% higher than the overall population

And they use these devices. A lot. AAPI households spend more time than average surfing the web on their computers, social networking on their smartphones, watching video on both computers and tablets, and shopping online.

  • The AAPI community shops online at a rate 34% higher than the total population
  • Almost 90% have purchased a product or service online in the past year

The AAPI community also spends another 23 hours per week watching television — more than any other group in the U.S.

Language can be tricky.

Broker tips:

  • Determine both the ethnic groups and age groups within the AAPI community you want to target.
  • Depending on which demographic you want to reach, advertising on native-language media outlets, such as cable channels, radio, magazines, newspapers, and online and social media, might make sense.
  • To attract younger clients, conventional English-language advertising, or a mix of both, might be more effective.
  • If you have a staff, determine whether anyone speaks a relevant language and if not, consider hiring someone who does.

For both marketing and interactions, language can be a challenge. Unlike other groups that share a single language, the AAPI community speaks more than 50 languages and thousands of dialects.

Of course, many members of the AAPI community also speak English — among native Hawaiians, that number is nearly 100%. But English literacy differs greatly between immigrants and those born in the United States. 

The key factor here is age. For example, among Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders under the age of the 35:

  • 34% were born outside the U.S.
  • 95% percent speak English well or exclusively

Contrast that with ages 55 and older:

  • Approximately 85% were born outside the U.S.
  • For several communities, such as Thai and Vietnamese, the number who were foreign-born approaches 100%
  • 56% have limited English proficiency (and more than 85% for certain groups, such as Vietnamese and Hmong)
  • Only 15% speak English at home

Attracting and working with older AAPI clients might then seem daunting. But a bit of community research can help. Find out who the largest AAPI population is in your community and focus on them. If there are several, Bill Imada, Founder and Chairman of AAPI-focused ad agency the IW Group, advises starting with one group, learning from your experience, and then using the lessons learned to focus on others.

And when you advertise, be sure to feature images of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. A recent Porter Novelli report found that people who didn’t feel represented in a company’s marketing were less likely to support that company.

Finally, if you have a staff, find out if anyone is at least partly fluent in a relevant language — you might already have an invaluable resource and not even know it!

Being able to communicate effectively with these clients is important. That’s because insurance brokers often play an essential role in the providing the AAPI community with access to the health and dental coverage they need. For example, according to recent data about California’s insurance marketplace, most Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese enrollees buy plans through certified insurance agents, as opposed to community groups or the Covered California website.

Support the AAPI community

Broker tip: Support your local community and work with organizations that serve it.

Family and community are very important to the AAPI community, and more than half said they’re more likely to purchase brands that support a cause they care about.

With that in mind, a great way to promote yourself and your business is to support local and national organizations that help the AAPI community. Certainly, a cash contribution is always welcome, but other suggestions for getting out and making a difference are:

  • Working with a local organization to expand dental access to the community
  • Volunteering or collaborating on an outreach project to help recent immigrants navigate the individual health and dental insurance market
  • Advertising or sponsoring an event to promote dental care

Some local and national organizations that serve the Asian and Pacific Islander communities include:

That’s helpful. But what else can Delta Dental do to help me?

Older Asian Americans and recently arrived immigrants can face challenges accessing oral health care. They might be unfamiliar with the U.S. health care system and have difficulty communicating in English.

Fortunately, Delta Dental offers materials and services that can help you make it easier for them:

  • The Language Assistance Program. Through this free service, your clients can get professional translation and interpretive services. This includes phone assistance, written materials and more. They can even request in-person interpreter services for dental visits, with 72 hours’ notice.
  • The Find a Dentist tool. Your clients can search for dentists who meet their specific language needs, such as Chinese or Tagalog. You can even use the directory to compile a list for them.

Supporting an individual client base as diverse as the AAPI community can be a challenge. But with some research and some help from Delta Dental, you can create strong relationships that can last for years, and perhaps even generations, to come.

Accessibility — more than just a buzzword

When your clients think of accessibility, they may think of wheelchair ramps and designated parking spaces. But when it comes to ensuring high-quality care, accessibility goes beyond the physical world. Accessibility extends into digital spaces and into the interactions that people have in their day-to-day lives. Let’s take a look at the ways accessibility can be an important part of dental insurance and what it means for your clients.

What is accessibility?

Accessibility is about making an experience available to the widest group of people, including those with physical or cognitive disabilities. That can include:

  • Using alternate text in images so that screen readers can describe them to users who are blind
  • Providing transcripts of videos for users who are deaf
  • Designing websites simply for users who have cognitive disabilities

What this means for your clients’ employees is simple: when they visit Delta Dental’s website or need to call customer service, their questions will be answered and their needs will be met, no matter their abilities.

Why does accessibility matter?

“[Accessibility] improves people’s lives. And how often do you get a chance in your job to dramatically improve other people’s lives by just doing your work a little better?”

  • Steve Krug, user experience professional

There are legal reasons to make accessibility a priority. Under laws such as the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, it is illegal to have Federal electronic and information technology inaccessible to people with disabilities or to discriminate on the basis of disability.

But accessibility is about more than just avoiding a lawsuit. Accessibility is about inclusivity for all of your clients’ employees, no matter their needs. With just a little effort, impediments like being unable to hear a video or read a website can be overcome, and more people will be able to access the quality care that they deserve.

Additionally, designing websites and implementing customer service practices that make life easier for those with disabilities often makes life easier for everyone. Regardless of their abilities, everyone appreciates simple and intuitive designs and being able to change settings to their personal preferences when it comes to interacting with websites and customer service platforms.

What is Delta Dental doing to advance accessibility?

At Delta Dental, we are committed to ensuring the accessibility of our products and services for everyone. We are committed to providing a platform that goes beyond mere compliance and seeks to provide a more meaningful experience for our customers with diverse backgrounds, abilities and perceptions. Our website and other products comply with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 levels A/AA, section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA), in addition to other local governing laws. For more information, see our accessibility statement.

In real terms, that means supporting popular web browsers, including Chrome, Edge, Safari and Firefox in desktop and mobile web views, as well as assistive technology including, but not limited to, screen readers and magnifiers on various platforms. We also provide services for non-English speaking employees through the Language Assistance Program (LAP). Through LAP, members can request documents in accessible formats, like Braille, and have on-site American Sign Language interpreters accompany them during dental visits. To take advantage of these services, including instructions on requesting an on-site interpreter, your clients can visit our language assistance page or call customer service.

Accessibility is about more than just checking boxes and meeting requirements. It’s really about providing a high quality experience for everyone. We’re proud to join you in serving a diverse audience and bringing all of your clients great dental care.

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