Is Paid Customer Service The New Normal?
Is paying for customer service the new normal?
We’ve seen a lot of companies deleting phone numbers for customer service. Major airlines, and a lot of large companies. Even government agencies don’t have phones anymore for customer service. When you do access customer service, it may cost money. Even in the healthcare industry, there are trends towards billing for even the smallest interactions with a healthcare provider. There’s an article talking about how doctors are now charging for emailing responses to questions. One person who was interviewed said “that their Cleveland clinic has begun billing for some email correspondence between patients and doctors, $15 or $20 is the norm”.
According to the study fees, some institutions charge a co-payment of $3, $35 or even $100 for email conversations. This is a big question: Does this make it harder for people who are on limited budgets to get good quality healthcare? For some people with different kinds of insurance it could have $33 to $50 dollars minimum charge for the patient for each email exchange. On the other hand, if email starts to be used more, and doctors spend their entire day doing emails; how is that going to work for a business model? So it’s an interesting question, but what we’ve seen in many Industries is more and more companies don’t have the same depth of customer service for free with email or phone. Because of the fact that it’s consuming too much of the time of actual providers of the service, actual professionals.
Let’s say a plumbing company or an electrical company, where somebody calls in or ask questions: The person who might know the answer to that is actually the licensed plumber or the professional in the field. If they take their time away to answer questions all day, they’re not going to be able to do any work for paying clients. So a lot of companies are going to this paid model, and it is an alternative to getting no answer at all. If you call, you’re just talking to a clerk or receptionist. They really can’t give you answers. Some people want more, and not just what they can read on a website. People want an actual one-on-one conversation.
Even though there’s some companies that still do this, sometimes they’ll offer you a salesperson that can help answer some questions. However, are they trying to sell you something? A paid conversation is more common. An example is Aetna insurance. They had a high deductible shaved and billed $32 for email threads seeking treatment for psoriasis eczema and other items. Time is money, and to be able to submit something simple. Communicating with your doctor is better than driving 20 minutes each way, and sitting in the waiting room. Some people see the value in it and for some people it’s a budgetary thing. If it’s the same as your deductible, and you can get the same answer without going, it’s a trade-off.
Whether it’s right or wrong, it is the trend it seems even in high level professions like the medical field.
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