It’s exciting to see new types of industries win with user-generated content, and Blue Shield of California has been a first-mover in the healthcare field – they added Ratings & Reviews to their site in September 2009. Blue Shield officially announced their launch of R&R today. You can read about it in AdAge or on our site.
I sat down with Jason Yang, their Brand Manager – Corporate Brand Marketing, who shared his insights about user-generated content.
Why did Blue Shield of California choose to add customer reviews to the site?
We are committed to making health care easier for our members and felt that Ratings & Reviews is a good way to obtain open, honest feedback from our members. We saw this as an opportunity for us to learn from our members and share information in a transparent way – it’s the right thing to do. We recognize that members want to be heard, and we want to give them the opportunity to have their voice be out there. We know consumers value information from other consumers like them, so the easier we can make it for members to share their perspective, the better off the industry, our members, and our ability to provide access to quality health care at an affordable price.
Being the first in the health plan to add UGC to your site, what challenges did Blue Shield of California face?
This has not been done with health plans before, so there really wasn’t a roadmap for us to follow. In a lot of ways, we were starting from scratch. It took a lot of work and creativity to get it going and to push through the idea that this is something right for health plans. We’ve seen really great participation numbers; we received hundreds of reviews in the first month, which exceeded our expectations.
We also have to protect the privacy of our members, providers, and doctors. The healthcare industry is very cognizant of privacy. We took a lot of steps to moderate the content to protect personal health information and individual privacy along with the usual guidelines for inappropriate language, so we could actually get feedback that could be displayed to the public in a way that was appropriate and still open, transparent, and safe.
How did you overcome these challenges?
Relative to other industries, our approach to moderating content is probably very conservative. Protecting members and personal health information is incredibly important to us, and we took all of the critical steps necessary to make sure that the information and system is secure. We updated our online policy guidelines so they covered new content offerings like member driven reviews.
We read every review to make sure the guidelines were appropriate and not too restrictive, but at the same time we wanted to make sure we presented an unbiased perspective. We spent a lot of time going through member feedback word by word to be sure we weren’t putting anyone at risk.
How is Blue Shield of California measuring their success in social commerce?
We are tracking things like member engagement and participation in the reviews program. We track actions taken by our customer service folks to help members that have written a review, we look at our search results, and our issue resolution results. We have been pleased with results we’ve seen, not just from a score perspective, but also with the ability of our customer service folks to follow up with members who have expressed a problem or a need, and to actually help them. There is rich data in that member feedback, and we’ve identified a couple of things that we want to focus on, and opportunities to improve upon products and services.
How has user generated content impacted the way you work with customers?
User-generated content helps us understand our customer needs and concerns with real-time feedback, and gives us a great opportunity to create a dialog with them. We’ve already learned a great deal from the member feedback we’ve received. Internally, there is a lot of excitement from all areas of the company about the feedback we’re getting through Ratings & Reviews, and we can continue to improve our processes, our offerings, and our services based on this input.
From the customer service perspective, we are reaching out to customers online more than ever to help them, because we know it’s a channel that they’re using now.
What are the social commerce goals for Blue Shield of California in 2010?
More than ever, our members go online to get information. The online channel is a new medium where they have chosen to share their experiences. Ratings & Reviews is one of several new programs that we’ll be launching to engage our members in new and exciting ways. We want to expand customer reviews to reach all of our millions of members. This ongoing dialog will help us continue to provide the right services and keep our members satisfied.
What are some of the most significant insights you have gained?
Our members really have a lot of feedback to share, and it’s been incredibly valuable for us to get that first-hand, real-time perspective. It’s helping us move faster in taking action to make things easier for our members. Our employer customers are also really excited about the ability to get feedback from their employees about the health plans they have with us.
Adding customer reviews to our site was a cross-functional effort which included marketing, customer service, our e-business and information technology team, our privacy team, our legal team, and public relations folks.