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Innovating to Connect In Old Ways

At a conference, a couple months back, I was sitting a half dozen rows from the stage where a panel of speakers were discussing trends in the ecommerce marketplace. While I am sure that the 60-year-old, non-profit MedicAlert Foundation isn’t the first organization that comes to your mind when you think of ecommerce, tens of thousands of new members choose a MedicAlert ID and enroll through our website each year. More and more, our website has become the place where members renew services, shop for new MedicAlert IDs (we have many different styles), and even donate to our charitable programs like Found for Autism. Quite literally, thousands of transactions with MedicAlert take place in our secure online environment every year.

Back to the conference, it was a session on complaint resolution and, no joke, I heard a speaker say something to the effect of “talking on the phone with your customers is the latest trend in customer service.” I almost fell out of my seat. When did talking on a phone become something new and different in the world of customer service?

Speaker after speaker, conference after conference, there are themes that emerge. Everyone is talking about two great and important concepts that relate to our mission. One is to put the member experience in the forefront of all decision making. In the medical world, this is often referred to as a patient first focus. Two is to be where your members are as it relates to communicating and connecting with people in the digital world. Social media channels, email, smart phone apps, and even text messages with a goal of connecting in the place that best suits the member’s needs.

However, connecting on this second point usually only refers to digital connections. Speaking with someone on the phone is nearly impossible with a lot of organizations as more options are available online. There is a significant percentage of MedicAlert Foundation members that choose to do all their personal health information updates online (Side note: we recommend updating and verifying your information at least once every three months to ensure that we have the most accurate information possible), but what happens if the method a member would prefer to communicate with us isn’t a digital path? What if someone just wants to pick up the phone and call us? Well, we answer.

More specifically, we have an amazing team in member care who answer the phone to help our members with a transaction, a question, an information update, and even a complaint we hope to solve. While we continue to work on our online experience, our staff will always be there for members who simply prefer to connect with us by phone. Our member care team is available Monday through Friday, 6am to 5pm Pacific Standard Time.

Paramedics, police, firefighters, and other rescuers also reach us by phone with one of the oldest, continuously operated toll free numbers in the country. We have been there, reliably answering the phone during times of need for decades. Our emergency response team operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

To MedicAlert, answering your calls is not an afterthought or new trend in customer service. It is a vital method of communication that we take great care to ensure remains consistently available and operating 24/7 in emergencies. A major innovation at MedicAlert during the last two years has been a smooth transition to a cloud based phone system. This new system will go unnoticed by our members calling in, but it was a huge undertaking to ensure reliability and continuous service during and directly after a disaster. The new system allows for greater flexibility in remote operations so our emergency staff can easily accommodate an influx of calls at any hour, day or night.

Remote operation is only one of the features this innovative new system delivers. There are several other changes that this system brings, very few of which a member will likely ever notice, but all done with the experience of our members and the mission of the organization in mind. MedicAlert Foundation, above all else, delivers a reliable path to communicate personal health and emergency contact information during a time of need. Innovation is not just about creating new paths, it is also necessary to be on the cutting edge of technology to be able to use the old ways reliably.