Why Details and Discipline Are Foundational to Your Success
Published on April 3, 2018
BILLING from 40,000 feet looks like this:
(1) Send a bill;
(2) Collect money;
At ground level it looks nothing like this…in fact, at ground level, it’s messy and it’s complicated…and how you handle it will be the difference between whether your products and services are bad, good or great.
Anyone can send an invoice via email, text or USPS. Anyone can electronically debit a checking account or take a credit card payment.
What happens when the customer doesn't make their payment? What happens when the customer’s payment bounces? What happens when the customer’s insurance is cancelled and they want to reinstate it? What happens when the customer pays an amount different than what they owe? What happens when the customer’s payment amount changes due to an endorsement and they are confused and upset because a larger amount of money is taken from their account?
When you look at billing in a realistic context, it's pretty clear that the devil is in the details and how you respond really matters.
- First and foremost, do you know what all of the potential exceptions are and have you designed systems and procedures to avoid them or handle them before they happen?
- Once they do occur, are you prepared to escalate and ultimately fix them in a timely fashion?
- What does your outbound digital, verbal and paper communication look like?
- What kind of complaints are most frequent? Most troublesome? Most urgent?
- At what frequency do these events occur?
- Do you analyze the results of your customer interaction? Graph them? Discuss them with your team and continually monitor and educate your service representatives in order to improve your response to your customers?
- Have you asked your agents and your policyholders if your written and verbal communications are clear? What can you do to improve them? How quickly and completely can you make those changes and do they measurably improve the customer experience?
If you just assume that the customer either pays or they don’t and there is either money received or a cancellation is issued, you are doing yourself and your business a disservice.
So, how does an organization manage the details and deliver a high quality billing service?
- Don’t take any component for granted. Build out a schematic for every single process in the business and make sure that every outcome is handled.
- Automate every repetitive non-customer-facing process. Look deeply into the capabilities of your software systems and spec out functions and features that should be made more efficient in order to gain greater efficiency without sacrificing quality.
- Review every single client-facing communication. Read every single piece of output, whether it’s paper, digital or onscreen. Make sure it is professional, clear and accurate. Make sure the timing of outbound notifications gives the recipient time to react. Listen to incoming and outbound phone calls in your service center every day, and ensure that customers are being treated how you want them to be treated.
- Build a Response Team. Errors are a part of life. No one person or company will ever be perfect. But how you respond to mistakes is critical. Make sure your responses are professional, timely and actually solve the problem. Take stock of your errors and regularly discuss how processes and systems should be modified to minimize them. Measure the results of those efforts to ensure that they are reducing your errors and enhancing customer experiences.
FINALLY…. Be honest with yourself. The skills required to effectively manage the procedural minutiae of a billing center are much different than the skills required to design and market an insurance product. Do you have the time and the operational discipline to build and configure the proper systems and processes? Once they are built do you have the resources and operational discipline to ensure that they are maintained, to change them as necessary and to continually monitor the performance of the servicing output? Most companies don’t emphasize this enough and don’t really take inventory of their strengths and their organizational dispositions to undertake this kind of work. If you can’t say with 100% certainty that operational discipline is a strength, then you should consider looking outside for help – either bringing in consultants or outsource to a firm that can bring this type of expertise to bear on your business.
Once you assess the internal capabilities of both your people and your systems, then you must implement your solutions quickly and decisively.
Create something that your customers can’t live without. They will thank you for it with their loyalty.