Integrating sales and service for a great customer experience

The Brief

Nimble and aggressive new players, an ageing member base and rising costs have shifted Australia’s private health insurance landscape. One of the biggest changes is the rise of more demanding and more value-driven customers.

In 2014, Australia’s largest not-for-profit health fund, HCF, realised that a traditional sales approach was no longer keeping members happy and enticing other people to join. Historically, HCF’s quality products, claims management, and service had made it different. Now, the margin of differentiation was shrinking and branch network sales were declining.

In addition to significant challenges in the private health insurance industry, there are multiple growth opportunities. HCF wanted to mitigate one and take advantage of the other. This meant changing the mindset of the 56 managers and 144 customer service representatives in the branch network.

HCF asked Maximus to develop a simple, easily executed sales approach that built on its service fundamentals, and to help them embed new behaviours across the branches.

80 percent of organisations with strong business performance have staff who are genuine about keeping customers satisfied.


To understand the gap between HCF’s current and desired state, Maximus researched best-in-class organisations, other health insurance providers, and HCF’s sales and customer service practices. We also assessed the sales strategy and model, and recommended changes. HCF were committed to making lasting change and ensuring training would be well supported, so we revisited their role descriptions, onboarding, sales incentives, and management and coaching support.

We found that HCF treated sales and service separately rather than integrating them to deliver a value-added customer experience. To change this mindset, branch staff needed to understand that great sales discussions contribute to exceptional service, just as great service leads to increased sales.

Providing the skills, tools, and behaviours to make this leap formed the core of the HCF solution, which took frontline staff and managers on a simultaneous journey to a new approach to customer interaction. Involving managers was crucial as they would be embedding the new culture at the branches.


So HCF could track and measure the program’s ROI, Maximus designed a comprehensive, multi-faceted ROI framework. This included questionnaires, anecdotal feedback, content usage levels, behaviour change measurement, and post-program organisational benefits.

For greater transparency, and to measure the program’s impact at branch level, we built branch sales standards templates. The scorecard tracks key indicators such as sales of new memberships, cross-selling, up-selling, mystery shopping results, member retention, and average wait time. Overall, at a branch level, HCF saw a 28% increase in member sales and 26% increase in revenue and a year-on-year conversion rate increase of 20%.

The scorecards have been very successful at the branches, proving to be a good tool for successfully managing change. As well as recording measurable, comparable results, they show what a great sales branch should look like and are the catalyst for productive performance discussions.