Will You Have Tea With Me? How The Healthcare Bill Will Hit Your Call Center

"The order is rapidly fadin' And the first one now, Will later be last, For the times they, are a-changin.."
-Bob Dylan

I been thinking a lot recently about this new health care morass and how it might possibly affect the thousands of people who work in the health insurance industry, particularly those call center representatives on the front line who answer the phone and deal with the millions of phone calls that come into the call center every day.

I am convinced there are some dark, unforeseen implications and troubling unanticipated consequences that lurk beneath the surface of this impending juggernaut. Before I continue, I need to "fess up" with you. I am conservative in most of my views and I do not like the Obama health care plan. I think it is a mess and is going to be a disaster for our country.

Pro Healthcare For All Americans, Against THIS Healthcare Bill

There you are; now you know where I’m coming from philosophically and you can interpret what I have to say accordingly. Full disclosure, right?

Also, I should also stipulate that I have not read the 2400 page legislative document and my thoughts and subsequent predictions for the customer service sector of the health care industry are based entirely on what I have learned from Cable News and CliffsNotes.

The new law is going to dramatically increase the level of antagonism and confrontational interaction between call center representatives and customers.

Consider the impact of the healthcare bill for the following four groups of heath care users.

  • 32 million new health care consumers will be added.
  • Americans who currently have health care coverage will incur increased cost.
  • Those people who are fortunate enough to have the so-called "Cadillac plans" will be taxed.
  • Companies who do not insure employees will be fined and consequently are caught between a rock and a hard place. One way or the other, their costs of doing business will increase.
The 32 million new users, I predict, will approach health care with an unrealistic and confrontational sense of entitlement. The other three constituent groups have legitimate reasons for increased irritation, they are paying more money! In all cases, there will be a natural tendency to take it out on the call center representative. This is an ill wind for an increasingly frustrating and annoying job.
The Natural Outcome From the Healthcare Bill: A Downward Spiral of Lower Job Satisfaction, High Turnover, Absenteeism, and Job Grievances.

The healthcare industry's call centers will not be a pleasant place to work when this begins to happen.

To counteract these increasingly negative phenomena, call center managers at health insurance companies will be tempted to increase the salaries of call center representatives and benefits (perhaps even Cadillac plans) to entice their call center representatives to stay on the job and deal with the never-ending onslaught of aggressive customer-call center interactions.

That is a huge mistake.

People who are overpaid for their work will soon begin to feel boxed in and vulnerable because they know there is no other employment opportunity where they can make as much money. This is a horrible situation! People hate their call center jobs jobs but they can’t leave. There is no way out and they simply must bite their lip and bear it!

The next step in this sequence of events will be anger which will frequently be directed towards the call center management. Why? Because call center representatives who are trapped by excessive pay and benefits will know they are being bribed and will resent those who they feel are responsible for putting them in that "sitting duck" situation.

Conversely, call center managers are likely to deal with this state of affairs with their own expression of anger to their call center subordinates. They will feel, "We are paying you a hell of a lot of money to do this job and you don’t appreciate it." This attitude doesn’t help the situation and the downward cycle accelerates.

The Vicious Cycle Caused By the Healthcare Bill

Eventually, the call center representatives will turn to a sympathetic ear. Enter the union! Call center representatives will convince their colleagues in the call center that they are worth every penny they are paid and their call center jobs must be protected from unappreciative, arbitrary, and capricious call center managers. And, it will only get worse if the "non-secret" ballot legislation is passed.

If you don’t believe me, think about the Post Office. When was the last time you ever saw someone smile in the U.S. Post Office? These people are all overpaid (and unionized) for doing tasks which are frequently less difficult than the health insurance call center representatives. It’s not hard for me to imagine, but it’s possible that instead of "going postal," we might say "going health insurance call center representative."

I know this is a dark assessment of the future for call center representatives in the health care industry. But, there are some things that can be done to buttress your organization against the oncoming assault.

First, don’t overpay call center representatives. Just don’t do it!

Second, focus like a laser on customer service and call center metrics and measurements. Call center representatives who perform better are more likely to be happy campers. Improvements in this area of call center job performance will make it more difficult for outsiders to successfully organize your call center work force.

Most importantly, there needs to be an increased emphasis on hiring really good representatives. It is much easier to hire the right people in your call center (who will perform and be less susceptible to outside influence) than it is to change your call center representatives once you hire them. This is a losing proposition. Birth is always easier than resurrection.

Finally the ultimate solution is, of course, is to vote out of office the people who got us in this mess in the first place. Those are my views. Please feel free to let me know yours.

"Think about it darling" - Jerry Lee Lewis