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01:50 PM
Nathan Golia
Nathan Golia
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Site Maintenance at 11 AM Thursday? You've Gotta be Kidding

My attempts to log into an insurer's website were rebuffed — and the site isn't even that well designed anyway.

Earlier this week. Insurance & Technology staff and the rest of the InformationWeek Business Technology Network convened in San Francisco for a group editorial meeting. And it was there, 2,500 miles from home and in front of all my colleagues and superiors, that I bit into a peanut, jarring loose part of a tooth attached to an old filling.

So that night, before I went to bed, I logged into my dental insurance provider's website to find a dentist in my network and my area. (I hadn't been to the dentist since moving to Bay Ridge.) I looked for dentists within 2 miles of my ZIP code — but it seemed that there were none actually within 30 blocks of me. Under two miles, yes — but still inconvenient. It's not like there aren't dentists in the area — in fact, one occupies a suite on the first floor of my apartment building.

But then realized that the site wasn't set up to list the dentists based on how close they are within the established parameters, like, say, the Target store locator. Instead, the site picks 100 out of more than offices within 2 miles at random. At random! Not wanting to schedule an appointment in Bensonhurst just because it was the path of least resistance, I Googled "bay ridge dentist" and searched the top results by last name to find a few in the network. At least that part wasn't random.

It should be noted that many health insurers recognize that the provider directory is one of the most important parts of their online portal to their membership. As Wellpoint's VP of consumer experience and e-marketing, Meg Rush, told me last month for our customer experience feature:

The core application that everyone uses and the most utilized is the provider directory. We had outsourced it, but we brought it in-house, and now we are leveraging our own data and our own enterprise warehouse to create an experience on our portals. We had… our Anthem care comparison [tool where] you can get the high and low costs of different facilities and quality information. But what we hadn't done is integrated it into our directory experience. That was our starting point, recognizing that it's a highly utilized tool.

But it got worse. Yesterday, I made an appointment with one of the offices for noon and decided to poke around on my insurers' site to get a handle on what my coverage was. I went to register, put in all my information, and waited... and waited... until the connection timed out. I tried again: no dice. A third time, I got this message:


We are doing routine system maintenance and this application is currently unavailable. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Be sure to close and reopen your browser, or you may continue to see this message after maintenance is completed.

Wait, what? 11:00 AM Eastern on a Thursday is maintenance time? Now, I understand that sometimes things go wrong and maintenance is unscheduled. But there's no indication of that in the message. "Routine system maintenance" sounds like something that is planned. On top of that, if I get the message again, I don't know if it's because I didn't close and reopen my browser correctly or if it's still going on!

Coupled with the illogical provider search, this added up to a bad online experience. It failed a number of the standards that Forrester's Ellen Carney outlined to me when I interviewed her for the same article:

"I don't go online very often, but when I do I want to get on, get done and get out — and if I can't find what I'm looking for, if the navigation is clunky, if I don't have assurance that the task I want to do will get done, that's a pretty high dissatisfier," she said.

In my case couldn't find what I was looking for (a local dentist), the navigation was clunky (random results?) and I didn't have assurance that the task I wanted to do was done (registration). For health insurance carriers, providing a top-notch customer experience is going to be more important as the market becomes more individually driven. A frustrating website experience like the one I had shows at least one provider has lots of room for improvement.

Nathan Golia is senior editor of Insurance & Technology. He joined the publication in 2010 as associate editor and covers all aspects of the nexus between insurance and information technology, including mobility, distribution, core systems, customer interaction, and risk ... View Full Bio

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