Thu | Dec 9, 2021
ADVISORY COLUMN: RISKS & INSURANCE

Cedric Stephens | Lessons for insurers from NHF service delivery

Published:Saturday | October 16, 2021 | 12:08 AM
The customer care unit of the National Health Fund, at Dominica Drive, New Kingston, as seen in May 2013.
The customer care unit of the National Health Fund, at Dominica Drive, New Kingston, as seen in May 2013.

I have Type II diabetes. I do not consider the condition to be a death sentence. I pay close attention to the foods and drinks that I consume and to how much I eat. I walk for about one hour, five to six days each week.

I check my fasting blood glucose level at the start of each day. I take my oral medication consistently and visit my general practitioner and ophthalmologist at least once per year. This routine is an important part of my life.

The costs associated with the management of the condition are funded by the National Health Fund, NHF, a health insurance plan, and me. My prescription is filled at a nearby pharmacy once each month. NHF subsidises part of the cost of my medication, the health plan pays part and I pay a part.

The last time I went to collect my medication, the pharmacist told me that the magnetic stripe on the back of the NHF card was defective; I should get a replacement. The news made me unhappy. I decided to forgo the NHF subsidy the next time that I visited the pharmacy because of what I assumed would be the hassle of driving to New Kingston, finding a parking spot and sit in an office for a long time to get a new card. Further, I had no idea about its compliance with COVID-19 protocols. This was an important fact because of my comorbidities.

Little did I know then that my worst fears would not be realised and that my experience with the NHF card reissuing process would provide the content for today’s column.

Online chat

Last Monday I decided on a whim to contact NHF to find out about its card-reissuing process. I visited the fund’s website and decided to engage in an online chat. The service provider was Monique. She was friendly, professional, and helpful. I learnt that the process would take a maximum of 15 minutes of waiting time once I completed an application form. To my surprise, I received a transcript of the online chat in an email a few minutes after the chat ended.

On my visit to the NHF, I encountered two security guards in the parking lot. Both were helpful and courteous. Another one greeted me at the entrance to the building. He took my temperature, sanitised my hands, and directed me to reception where I received instructions on where to find the Fund’s customer service area. Another security guard who was sitting outside the area stood up on my approach, showed me a sanitiser and told me to sanitise once again.

As I entered the area, a gentleman, Mr Franzham, got up from behind a counter, opened a door and approached me. He examined the form and told me that I had omitted to sign it and then returned behind the counter.

I signed the form and then handed it back to Mr Franzham. The time was 10.20 a.m., according to my phone. I sat down about six feet away from another customer who was there before me.

I barely had time and examine my surroundings, which was decorated to mark customer service week, when my name was called for me to collect my replacement card. The time that had elapsed since I surrendered the old card and was handed the new one was six minutes. Accompanying the new card was a letter signed by the Customer Care Manager Sacha Blake.

Many thoughts crossed my mind as I left the building. Among them were the following:

• NHF does not charge for the public services that it provides. It is a government entity, yet the quality of its service, based on my experience, exceeds that of many local private sector entities, like banks and insurance companies, who are paid to deliver services. What are the reasons for this?

• What is NHF’s board, senior management and employees are doing or not doing, those other companies can emulate?

• Would policyholders have more trust in insurance and insurance providers if they consistently delivered service of the quality that I experienced at the NHF in New Kingston last Monday?

Bernard Schneider and David E. Bowen in their book Winning the Service Game wrote: “The customer has expectations about how the interaction with the service deliverer will unfold. Will the service be delivered quickly, competently, courteously? Will the service delivery person have the necessary tools to provide the service? Does the service encounter occur in a physical setting that fits the nature of the service being delivered?”

When I began the process that led to the reissue of my NHF health card I had no idea where it would end. Happily, I learned it provides a connection to last week’s column ‘Hidden Insurance Claims Backlog: What Chief Justice Sykes Can Teach Insurers’. It turned out the NHF can also teach them a thing or two.

Cedric E. Stephens provides independent information and advice about the management of risks and insurance. For free information or counsel, write to: aegis@flowja.com or business@gleanerjm.com