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Recent adjustments to the Medicare star rating system have had a negative impact on countless insurers, hospitals, and care providers. Entities that provide Medicare Advantage Plans have been hit particularly hard, as the adjustments may have dropped their star ratings from five to four stars.

While many variables contribute to the drop in star ratings, the recent revisions focus on customer experience scores as a driving factor. Since the Medicare star rating system now gives more weight to customer service scores, insurers must explore ways to enhance this facet of the care experience.

The most pragmatic pathway for improving Medicare star rating numbers appears to involve teaching kindness to frontline staff who regularly interact with members. There are several ways that organizations can accomplish this.

Tactics for Teaching Kindness

Organizations interested in teaching kindness and improving Medicare star rating numbers can invest in programs that do the following:

Encourage Staff to Focus on the Total Experience

Before devoting time and resources to employee training, organizational leaders across all levels of leadership and management must work together to optimize staff buy-in. Decision-makers should carefully craft messaging that outlines:

  • Why improving Medicare star rating numbers supports the company’s mission
  • How the intended training helps achieve this goal
  • What role each leader or employee plays
  • The short- and long-term benefits of the initiative

When staff members know why they are required to attend training, they are likelier to be attentive and trust the process. Conversely, if employees are not included in the process, overall training efficacy can be significantly diminished.

Teach Good “Bedside Manner”

Once an organization has achieved strong buy-in among staff, it is time to begin training. If the goal is teaching kindness, then training should be focused on reinforcing the same basic principles that clinicians learn about “bedside manner” and customer service.

Start with the basics, reminding frontline staff that members are discussing their healthcare needs. They should open with warm greetings and narrow the focus to more nuanced principles, such as showing empathy.

Review and Revise Policies

When effective training practices are paired with clear and well-designed organizational policies, insurance providers can enhance workplace culture and promote kindness. While virtually every organization already has such policies in place, it is essential to review them periodically and, if necessary, refine them.

Additionally, insurance providers should remind staff of relevant policies when teaching kindness. For instance, quarterly updates of empathy training can go a long way toward ensuring that frontline staff is ready for concerns and complaints and to help members walk through system issues. Members who are shown kindness at every step are more likely to reach out with concerns before those concerns become major issues that arise on a rating platform.

Download Part II of Northridge's State of Customer Experience 2023 Research Report for more CX insights!

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Invest in Customer-Friendly Technologies

After major or minor health events, members are focused on solving their own problems and on how an insurance provider can help. They want immediate answers and expect frontline personnel to help them on the first contact.

Investing in knowledge management technologies that arm associates with accurate information offers a means of indirectly improving Medicare star rating numbers. Knowledge management systems can help insurance providers process member questions more rapidly, providing better and quicker responses and improving the member’s perception and value of the overall experience.

Reaping the Rewards of Kindness

Though the goal of teaching kindness is improving or maintaining a high Medicare star rating, the rewards are greater.

Just like any “disease,” kindness can spread quickly through an organization. A 2021 study revealed that employees who show and are shown kindness in the workplace are 44% more committed to their organization, have 26% more energy, and have 33% more satisfaction in their work.

Organization leaders who put a premium on kindness can see the benefits extend beyond their customer base to envelop the entire institution. By making the workplace a better environment, it is easier to optimize staff buy-in for kindness training, invest in new tools, and reinforce the good habits that drive successful outcomes and satisfaction.

To explore how your organization can benefit from Northridge’s Contact Center coaching and training program, contact us.

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