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October 21, 2011

You Don’t Call, You Don’t Write… and that’s OK


Customer Communications has always been at the core of enterprise information strategies.  For organizations striving to capitalize on strengthened relationships with consumers, it would seem an added bonus that they may also streamline operational costs at the same time… if they do it right.

The proliferation of tablets and other mobile devices presents unique opportunities, and has caused many organizations to take a second look at how to satisfy their customers’ heightened expectations for immersive 24×7 interactions.

Besides, how much does it cost your agency to route traditional outbound correspondence and handle inbound inquiries received by postal mail or telephone?

The figures vary within each organization since factors like call volume and levels of service complexity need to be considered. But a conservative estimate of $5 -$10 per inquiry is generally applied across most industries. (hint: For complicated segments, like health benefits administration, that figure quickly escalates!)

And what does the agency typically get in exchange for such an expensive investment?  The list is long, but a few of the most recurring responses include:

  1. Frustrated consumers who feel inconvenienced. (“Please listen carefully since the menu options have changed. Press 1 to continue…”   Ugh!!!)
  2. Error-ridden databases, which are usually the result of redundant manual entries.
  3. Significant bottlenecks in processes that contribute even more to # 1 and # 2 above.

This dysfunctional cycle is often a symptom of more alarming inefficiencies throughout the enterprise, and it was high among trending topics when I spoke on a panel at a recent summit in our nation’s capital: “IT for Effective Government Healthcare Programs.”

IT plays an integral role in the administration of government programs. This is particularly true in healthcare where significant challenges, like increasing costs and barriers to access for life-saving benefits, may vary significantly between diverse regions.  But in order for these healthcare programs to be successful, there are three key requirements that should be considered and addressed in every aspect of the lifecycle:

1.   Engagement on the front end

  •  IT solutions need to provide value to its intended audience in order to be adopted as a better way for doing business.  Ultimately, if the solution doesn’t actually get used then it is useless.  For example, the US Department of Veterans Affairs selected Adobe’s solution as the winner of their Blue Button Developers Challenge in part due to the dynamic experience that our solution provides users as they securely interact with their personal health data.

2.   Efficiency on the back end

  • IT solutions for government healthcare programs should clearly align with one or more business objectives and demonstrate a direct correlation to optimized workflows, streamlined processes, or improved outcomes such as at the Illinois Department of Human Services. Also consider the example of a public health plan like Medicaid leveraging an interactive statement to communicate explanation of benefits (EOB) to its members. The i-Statement EOB empowers health plans to transform their static one-size-fits-all paper statements into a dynamic two-way communication channel which enables members to manage their accounts or chat with customer service agents from within the electronic document. Members can even dispute the accuracy of a claim, thereby reducing the risks of fraud and potentially saving hundreds of millions of dollars annually by helping to identify overcharges that otherwise may have slipped through the cracks.

3.   Effectiveness throughout

  • Measuring progress, adoption, and impact of government healthcare programs is essential to fully exploiting and replicating successful implementations, or proactively adapting projects that are failing.  Through real-time segmentation, dashboards, and other intelligence, program managers can gain a complete picture of how consumers are interacting with health IT solutions like benefits enrollment portals, and then deliver relevant and engaging digital content that boosts key performance metrics. These days, agencies can’t afford to wait until the end of a fiscal cycle before they begin to determine whether a program is working. Embedded analytics and other related tools help to ensure the measurable effectiveness of health IT solutions almost immediately.


In the end, rather than suggesting the elimination of traditional mail processing and call centers altogether, my fellow panelists and I agreed that agencies instead should objectively evaluate the processes that surround these cost centers, and look for ways to complement them with technology. In most cases, that will create a win-win environment for everyone, since the byproduct of optimized customer experience is often an improved bottom line for the enterprise.

Let us know what you think on Twitter @AdobeGov and @AdobeCEM, or on Facebook.