Health Plans

The Power of First Impressions for Health Payer Organizations

PUBLISHED: 2/22/2023

When we think of first impressions, we typically think of our own interpersonal interactions.

But marketers can apply that same lens to examine all of the “firsts” a new member experiences in their health insurance journey — from the search engine results page seen early in the discovery process to an app interaction at later stages of the journey.

From choosing a plan to the first time members experience their first health issue, health plans should prioritize CX and exemplify the brand story successfully throughout every touch point.

When creating strategies for member acquisition and retention, we suggest  placing bets on optimizing all of the “firsts” in your member journey.

Below, we examine three critical “firsts” with members: 

  • Choosing a Plan
  • Onboarding to the Plan
  • Experiencing the First Health Issue

Choosing a Plan

Common challenges facing consumers when selecting a health plan include costly premiums, adequate coverage of medications or treatments, limitations around doctors and benefits and much more.

Understanding the details of each plan and making an informed decision can be challenging so how can health payer organizations ease this pain? 

During the consideration process, we recommend that payers place bets on their website to make a positive first impression. 

The website is their #1 brand tool and likely the first place customers will go to learn more. Think of all of the channels being invested  in to drive traffic to the website. This heavy investment requires UX to be made as a top priority.

Create a low-friction website on a CMS, like Sitecore, because consumers are actively looking to make an informed health coverage decision. The gold standard includes:

  • Using a clean and simple design with clear calls to action. In the health insurance space, results from tests show that consumers prefer familiarity versus out-of-the-box messaging and graphics. The sea of sameness can perform!
  • Optimizing for fast page load times which means reducing file sizes, utilizing caching and implementing a reliable web hosting service.
  • Making the website mobile friendly and responsive to different screen sizes. Always test to improve member conversion.
  • Continually test for usability through live user testing and other tools, like Mouseflow, that can highlight negative experiences such as “angry clicking.” Asking even just 3 to 4 users will locate the bulk of the issues causing friction.

Next, create an interactive experience for the visitor that results in a seamless and efficient journey ahead. 

The interactivity and dynamic nature of content to follow will require a user-centric approach to design and understanding audience needs. We know the consumer is in the research stage. Here are a few examples of how to create a great experience.

First, have website users anonymously respond to 3 questions they can answer without ever needing  to leave the page. Their answers will drive them to relevant pages thereafter. If the final question is, “when are you looking to switch plans” and the intent is high, swiftly continue the journey to select and share a plan that’s right for them.

To do this, conduct a short survey that gives a plan recommendation. When the survey is completed, appropriate information should be provided that compares plans so the user can understand not only the pros and cons of each one, but also how it affects them personally. This tool can then be used in marketing efforts to drive interest and traffic. 

At the end of the survey, capture email information and create semi-personalized emails via nurture that continue users on their journey with that organization. This could include next steps to signing up for a plan or access to educational materials. 

If a new member is not acquired at this time, incorporating other options to connect and resolve questions either with a live chat tool like Drift, or by telephone is another way to stop a leaky funnel. 

Pro Tip: Work internally to improve the customer experience. What do people need from a functional vs. an emotional standpoint? We discussed in-depth here on how to scale empathy within  organizations to improve customer experience.

Last but not least, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention all of the analytics that should be leveraged to make smart decisions. What are the conversion rates on appointment request pages? Where do new patients stop engaging in the funnel? Establish benchmarks and use data to validate optimizations. 

Onboarding to the Plan

Congratulations on acquiring a new member. What does the onboarding experience look like? Cover all the basics:

  • A welcome email has been sent (is it personalized?)
  • An email overview of the plan has been shared (how simple to understand is it?)
  • A tool has been offered to select a provider (how slick is the UX?)
  • Explanations around how to use the plan, including all-important guidance around medications that cannot lapse while in transition, has been sent
  • Additional resources and easy access to support have been provided
  • Request for feedback has been sent through a NPS survey

So, what does it feel like to become a new member? Voice of the customer research is critical for each of these steps so  onboarding can be continually improved. 

Leveraging segmentation through demographics and geography can personalize communications and make the new members feel seen.. For example, a member living in a State like Arizona with a warmer climate and full sun exposure might receive information on preventative measures like hydrating, wearing sunscreen and more. Certainly, an elderly population will have different insurance concerns than a group in their young twenties

Personalization doesn’t have to be 1:1. In fact, it should start with larger segmentation that can be siphoned down through testing. Think about the content, images, tone and other ways to address member concerns and further differentiate from other health insurance providers. 

These efforts support customers in their goals of living healthy lives and ultimately build trust with payers.

Take members’ onboarding to the next level by sharing customer success stories through email and social channels; as well as highlighting on the website or YouTube. By doing this, health payers can demonstrate how customers improved their health by working specifically with them as the health insurance provider. Make sure to collect reviews and work with customers to tell their story in a way that connects to the larger brand story.

Experiencing the First Health Issue

As the Magic 8-ball would say, it’s complicated. Members experience a full range of emotions including the below.

With that said, what can the insurance provider do to interject relief in this stressful and overwhelming experience? 


There are at least two major situations to be aware of — emergency and non-emergency. In either situation, a seamless use of health insurance in an emergency situation means that the insured person can receive medical care quickly and efficiently without worrying about the cost or insurance coverage. 

At the end of the day, the insurance provider needs to be ready to go. 

Marketing teams support this objective by understanding the journey and creating tools and processes that allow for simple interactions. Invest in empowering members so they can approach their first health issue with ease.

MERGE works with clients to perform voice of the customer research and journey mapping exercises. Given the empathetic requirements of the healthcare space, the emotional state of the member should be considered throughout the touch points. 

Marketing teams should take accountability for clear communications and follow-ups to collect feedback and help the entire organization optimize processes. They can also focus on developing solid provider relationships so insurance and provider communications are optimized across all channels. 

We recommend marketing leaders take a look at the “firsts” and peel back the layers. Placing bets on these “firsts” is a major way to impact the customer experience and create a healthy revenue stream.

We do this through conducting market research, creating personalization through audience segmentation, optimizing the experience on the website and more. We are always analyzing efforts for continuous improvement. Reach out to MERGE today for an audit of “firsts” and then create a winning, five-star plan. 

Looking for more? Watch the full webinar, Innovative Strategies for Medicare AEP