Noridian uses empathy to deliver exceptional customer service to vulnerable Medicaid members

By: Anne Simon, vice president of customer experience at Noridian Healthcare Solutions

Customer service is important. Arguably just as important as the quality of the product or service being provided because a terrible experience can easily overshadow everything else. Our customer experience is handled by what we consider one of our most valued assets – our people.

The experience our people deliver directly impacts all our customers, which include Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Services (CMS), state Medicaid programs, commercial health plans, providers, and suppliers and even their customers which are the people receiving the health care.  Therefore, it is essential we provide customers with the best experience possible through every type of interaction, from member call inquiries to provider education, because people’s health care can be affected by it.

We strive every day to deliver exceptional customer experiences and continue to build a culture focused on it. This article kicks off our “Noridian Customer Experience Elevated” series which will give you a better understanding on how we approach customer experience, the impact it has on everybody from our employees to our customers and how we’re elevating it. Our first article explores how an internal training helped improve the customer experience for Medicaid members.

A unique contact center

As the subcontractor on a Medicaid Expansion contract, Noridian manages the contact center work. In the first year, 62% of the calls received came from members who were in difficult circumstances, such as homelessness, substance abuse and dependency, and behavioral health conditions to name a few. These people were attempting to access necessities like lodging, meals and transportation to get to their medical appointments. As you can imagine, these challenging situations resulted in anger, desperation and frustration coming out in calls our team was handling.

After gaining a better understanding of the requests our team was receiving, we started discussing an internal customer service training specific to the needs of the Medicaid Expansion population. A common saying that I often repeat to my team is, “Through every call and interaction, we have the ability and opportunity to positively impact the caller’s day by creating an extraordinary experience.” This approach became our goal. We wanted to give our team the tools and knowledge needed to better handle the sensitive nature of the challenges the members were going through daily. As a part of the customized training and speaking with others in the industry, we decided to do immersive training to build empathy and give perspective.

Building an empathetic employee

In total, thirteen team members completed more than 17 hours of training over three months. The immersive training included three experiences:

  • Customized customer service training: We worked with our Talent Development department and Medicaid Expansion leaders to create a customized customer training specific to the needs of Medicaid members. The training was broken out into seven self-paced sessions and seven live sessions which included post-course content application. The sessions covered a variety of relevant topics, including applying empathy, responsiveness and assurance to customers and handling difficult situations.
  • Volunteering at a local organization: All our team members volunteered for an afternoon with an organization that supports poverty population in North Dakota, Iowa, Arizona and New York to learn more about the challenges Medicaid members face daily.
  • Digital poverty simulation: To create additional empathy and perspective, the team went through an interactive poverty simulation where they digitally experienced what it’s like to live as a low-income family, facing multiple challenges a day, and how these factors shape behavior and beliefs.

The impact the immersive training had on our team was profound. Countless people told me how the training gave them a new perspective because up until then, they didn’t understand all the challenges Medicaid members were facing. Now, they do and the takeaways from the training are kept top of mind every time a phone rings.

Lasting impacts

In addition to the empathy and perspectives the training gave our team, it also had positive impacts on quality scores and survey responses. But more importantly, the training led to a better customer experience for Medicaid members.

  • Customer service quality scores
    • In December of 2022, prior to starting the series training, the overall quality score for customer service was 94.44%.
    • In March of 2023, after the training was conducted, the customer service quality scores were 99.17%
  • Examples of surveyed responses from Medicaid members
    • “The customer service rep was very patient, kind and informative. She answered my questions quickly and asked if I had any others. She was pleasant to talk to and informative. Excellent customer service!” – Medicaid member
    • “I was not looking forward to this call but that feeling quickly went away because the customer service rep was focused solely on me. I never felt rushed because she took the time to really listen to me and fully understand the situation. After the call, I felt like I could breathe again.” – Medicaid member
  • Examples of surveyed responses from Noridian customer service representative (CSRs)
    • One CSR stated “it was a true eye opener, educational, fun, captivating, and made me aware of things that need to be a part of our daily work.”
    • Others shared about how different the training was than any other customer service trainings they have gone through and how it made them more conscious of some of the challenges our members are faced with, helping them to be more empathetic to those we serve.

Ongoing training

Given the success of the initial training program, the team plans to offer ongoing trainings to existing employees while having new hires go through it as part of the onboarding experience. We will continue to invest in our employees and operations so that our company is well-equipped to deliver impactful customer experiences through our services that affect millions of people.

If you are interested in learning more about how Noridian can help improve your customers’ experience through our services, please reach out to us on our Contact Us page or connect with me on LinkedIn.

About the author
Anne Simon is vice president of customer experience at Noridian Healthcare Solutions and has been with the company since 2007. She leads an elevated customer experience for government and private enterprise clients and oversees all Noridian contact centers, as well as provider outreach, education and enrollment. Simon brings 16 years of experience at Noridian in roles with increased responsibility, from starting as a customer service specialist to managing more than 200 staff in her previous role as director of operations. Her extensive experience includes leading multiple operational teams and ensuring all performance standards are met.