LFG with JJ Podcast - E4: Nadira Kharmai

Join Juan Jaysingh in a captivating conversation with Nadira Kharmai, the CX Leader at Priority Health. Discover Nadira's career journey from the media industry to entrepreneurship and her ultimate passion for Customer Experience. Explore the latest innovations in digital programs, telehealth, and personalized recommendations shaping the healthcare CX industry.

June 14, 2023
10 min read
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Episode transcription

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Juan: 0:01

Welcome to LFG with JJ, the podcast that helps you level up your CX game by navigating CX and AI technologies. I'm Juan Jaysingh, the CEO of Zingtree, the AI-powered customer experience platform, providing solutions that turn every human into an expert. 700 plus companies across 54 countries trust our solutions to boost their contact center proficiency, enable their customers to self-help, improve their internal processes, and more with Zingtree.

So yeah, we'll talk a little bit about your background. It's always fun to, learn about, I know you were in the media industry and then got into marketing and where you are now in healthcare. So it always good to hear about your background and then we'll get into the CX, the Customer Experience industry, the space, and then what's happening in the industry, the state of the union. And then from there, we'll get into your actual current role, your job, how you continue moving forward and staying relevant and progressing and learning and all that good stuff. And then we'll wrap up with some final questions and that should be like the plan for the day. Does that make 

Nadira: 1:11 

Sense? Yeah, .thank you so much for having me on your podcast. It's really exciting. I'm really happy to be here.Yep.As Juan said, my name is Nadira Kharmai I am the CX manager at Priority Health, and I just celebrated my fifth work anniversary. And to get to this place I have an interesting career path and it began with really A love and passion for storytelling. So I have a degree in communications with an emphasis in broadcast journalism. So I pursued creating news pieces print, and digital TV for some years I was an entrepreneur creating. You founded a business?

Juan: 2:02 

Did you found a business? 

Nadira: 2:03

Yeah, I did. Not an homage to our motherland. It was really fun to create, social media was fairly new in 2010 and people really didn't understand, like, how do I promote my business or tell my story or amplify.

Juan: 2:28

And was this something that came to you, Nadira, even like even, obviously you went to school for this college, but did you have this passion even before and before you went to college.

Nadira: 2:39

Yeah, I was, I'm like a storyteller at heart so

Juan: 2:44

What kind of jobs did you have? Did you do any kind of job, interesting jobs in high school or college? Like where you before you got into doing your own production and building your own business? Yeah.

Nadira: 2:55

That's a good question. That's a good question. So there was a local community media center called GRTV. And I would take classes there. My brother actually worked there for some time, and this was back in the day. Some of the people listening to this probably can't really imagine this, but it was back in the day where we would use tape and I learned how to shoot on film. Edit the tape. I know I'm aging myself. I'm old. But it was awesome. Like I was in junior high school, like eighth grade doing sports, newscasts to play at my school. I just always loved not only storytelling, but like curating and creating this experience of you are here with me, you're learning about these players, or you're at this event with me. What

Juan: 3:46

Was your favorite sport to interview or to create content?

Nadira: 3:51

That was hard. I loved when I was in junior high and high school basketball, that was really fun and energetic, girls' volleyball. But then I had some really cool opportunities to intern at NBC affiliate stations. One of 'em down in Tampa, Florida, and I got to, I was like one of the only interns ever to go and interview players like Evan Longoria in the Tampa Bay Ray's locker room. You, that's unheard of, like at that collegiate level to be like, sure. Have the intern go in and interview the players. It was really neat, really cool hands-on experience. Did some internships there, but there was always a layer upon storytelling that was about the experience, like I said, and I think that was a light bulb moment that took me to this role in customer experience. So it's interesting how that was always red threaded throughout my career and my interests. And finally, I'm here. So it's awesome.

Juan: 4:53

So straight from being in the media world you came into Priority Health. And, yes, I can see how, the storytelling piece and the media piece, it was nicely gave you a nice segue into getting into Customer Experience marketing. Tell us a little bit about healthcare. Like how, what is your, and like getting into the healthcare background that you've had now over the last close to six years. How did that happen?

Nadira: 5:23

Yeah. Yeah. So I'm gonna back up just a little bit before I get to how I came at Priority Health. I did have some experiences that really shaped me prior to getting here in the corporate setting. Like I mentioned, Juan, I was an entrepreneur for a couple of years, and that was really great. And there I grew my business development chops, right? Being able to network, make connections. Understand how you gotta build a business, run a business. Yep. How to be profitable, right. And market myself. And so I was really learning a lot and that took me to one of my first corporate jobs. Yeah. Was actually in property casualty insurance and I learned so much working at a subsegment of the Farmer's Insurance group organizations. Called foremost, and that was tremendous for me to just really learn about P&L and managing a budget and advertising and all of those things that involve marketing communications and being able to sell, whether it's to direct consumers or through the work that I was doing was independent agents. So I talk about all of these things cuz I really do believe that it was a culmination to get me to where I am today. Joined Priority Health five years ago. Love the healthcare industry. It's such wonderful work because I love people. I love being able to help people who are like, Hey, how do I pay for this? How do I pay for this care? That's the benefit of insurance, right? With these insurance plans, and some of them are $0 premium plans. You don't have to worry about the cost of care, like you don't wanna have to worry about burning through your pocketbook when you have some serious life-threatening things to manage, and that's relative to your health journey. Yeah, I just I love people. I love helping people, and I like that. I'm honored to have a job that lets me do that every

Juan: 7:28

day. That's awesome. You love helping people and you love helping people tell your story. It's a great combo. You've had an amazing career. Congrats, you've progressed throughout your career. Was there a time when you were getting your career going, whether it's into being in high school, college, and of course you continue to evolve and continue to grow, or was there a time where you felt like, it was a hard job that you had, or a moment in life where you felt like, Hey, you know what I'm going down this right path and I'm gonna make it, or I'm making it, I'm gonna make it someday. That gave you that confidence that you're set for success.

Nadira: 8:13

Yeah. Let me think about that one. That was really good. I would say

Juan: 8:22

Was there like aha moment Hey, you know what? I'm gonna make this. I'm gonna make it happen. I just need to stay the course.

Nadira: 8:28

I think, yeah, thanks for that clarification. I think it's really when I came to Priority Health and I was able to really just start making those deeper connections with people at work, like straight from the start. And having that positive energy and. My ability to own my own work. That went a long way. And I always had brought that curiosity and that learning mindset, but I think it was, partially the environment, like priority health. It's part of the reason I've been here for five years. Great people. You're an old timer.

Juan: 9:04

Most people leave jobs after two years. You've been there for, six years now.

Nadira: 9:10

Yeah, no, it's, I would say that was the point. There were definitely other jobs where it was really challenging. As you noted in the question where it's I'm grappling with do I stay? Do I go? But I would say to anyone listening, like, all of the experiences that you have, whether it's current or past, it helps shape you. And there, there were definitely jobs that I had in the past where I'm like, this isn't for me, but I can learn something from it. Like even though, I'm having bad days or I don't really like the line of work that catapulted me to understand what do I want, what line of work do I wanna work in? And it, helped lead me to Priority Health. Yeah.

Juan: 9:53

That's great. Thank you. Thanks for sharing your background. I think this is a good segue for us to get into the industry. We're all in the customer experience industry, whether you're, I'll tell this to everyone Hey, we're in the B2B world, but really it's when you look diving deeper, it's a B2C, right? Whether we're working with you, but you are servicing your members, your customers, right? So there's a lot of, and at the end of the day, it's people, it's human that you're dealing with day in and day out. So there's a lot going on in the cx industry. And on top of that, I think, healthcare is very unique. We hear that all the time. It is. We see that. So I'd love to just get, you've been in this industry for six years, you're enjoying it. You've done well. So just hearing from you directly, what is the state of the union of the healthcare CX industry? Yeah. What's working well? What challenges are out there and where do you see this industry going?

Nadira: 10:48

Yeah, that's a really great question. There's lots and lots of innovation that's happening in healthcare, particularly with digital programs and telehealth, and that's really neat to see. There's a lot of new players coming into the market with their unique product offerings or ways to serve members or patients virtually. And the technology is amazing. To be able to get care without leaving your couch. That's awesome. Yeah.

Juan: 11:20

Accelerate doing COVID. Is that what enabled it?

Nadira: 11:24

Oh yeah, I do. I think that...

Juan: 11:26

COVID, yeah. You guys, I deal with a lot with COVID happening in the healthcare space and with hospitals and challenges that you had and then with people trying to get care without coming to the hospital during COVID times.

Nadira: 11:42

Totally. It had a monumental impact on how we provide care. How we receive care. And another interesting thing too is innovations specifically within the pharmaceutical space, right? Prescription drugs are very expensive. People need them to manage their chronic condition, feel better, et cetera, et cetera. So it's like how do you make that cost efficient, affordable for people? So you, I'm seeing lots of changes in those two areas. And then the third one is personalized recommendations. Healthcare is really trying to personalize these next steps to that individual consumer. And I would say that healthcare is catching up to other industries like retail and entertainment. Another thing too, I just thought of this is I've seen a lot of leveraging applied behavioral science to programs and engaging with consumers so that they can make healthier decisions for themselves. You're not shaming them, you're not incentivizing them. There are lots of other ways to leverage human-centered design and apply behavioral science to make sure that experience resonates and is meaningful to the consumer. So really big changes in healthcare in the last couple of years. There're some big things...

Juan: 13:05

here. Talked about telehealth. Prescriptions cost, it's there's a lot going on in your space. It's exciting. It...

Nadira: 13:15

is. It's that's another reason why I love this industry. It's like you get to help people and there's a lot of personal...

Juan: 13:23

recommendations. You mentioned that's, yeah. Absolutely. That's amazing. There's a lot going on. It's exciting. Moving to your, current role and you've had different roles I see at Priority Health, I think most of them have been in marketing, but I'd love to just learn about, your current role and then how is technology, we all live in a technology world now. How has technology played an impact in your role? What are some of the current tech stacks, tech tools and products that you use? And hopefully Zingtree has supported you. Would love to just learn a little bit more about your, day-to-day work that you're doing.

Nadira: 14:04

Yeah. Huh, where do I begin? I could talk about Priority Health and marketing and CX all day. It's fun. And with you, I like catching up with you on this stuff. So from a tech stack perspective, we have, I'm gonna mess up on this name. I think Alchemer, that's what it is. So we have Alchemer, that's one of our tools that we use for creating surveys and just gleaning more voice of the customer. We use Stratified to understand a little bit more deeper sentiments for calls. Obviously we use Tableau Dashboard to understand, how are things performing and resonating. So from the technology aspect and there's tons of other systems and softwares that we use to create what, my work baby is a recommendations platform. So that's been going really well. To zoom out and really explain what do I do at Priority Health? It's. We are responsible for the member experience, and that's not central to just outbound messaging. And it's not just central to our customer care center. It's everything. It's all the way from plan selection to renewal. So we're measured by customer effort score, CES, and we do CES surveys and we understand how we are performing based on the line of business, and we're measured by like that. Like how is experience for our members, whether it's, interacting with some of our digital products or having a member understand their benefits. So it's a big job that spans, again, across all market segments and we have a lot of key partners, but I love being able to just zoom in on a pain point and say, okay, how do we build this team and journey, map this out to understand what is current state? What do we know about the problem to create a good future stay and let's make it happen.

Juan: 16:06

I always thought it was cool that, you, you all always call patients members. And I'm just thinking out loud here it's actually pretty cool cuz a patient, Yes, a patient's coming in, they need help, they need service. But sometimes you can give a negative tone, but a member is, Hey, you know what? I'm a member of this organization. I'm here to make my health better. I, and whether it's, I'm in a negative state or not, I'm a member. I'm connected to this community, and I'm working with this community to make sure I have a healthy lifestyle. So I thought at least that's the view I get is this. I love that. I love that observation. Remembered name. How did you guys come up with a member name? Was that something there or, because obviously people know member. I don't know if people know clearly member is a patient, but that's what you're referring to, when you say member.

Nadira: 16:57

Yeah. So I love that you're able to glean that positivity, whoever came up with that term on how we wanna call our consumers definitely gets a lot of kudos in my book. So Priority Health is, a health plan that's over 30 years old and we are owned by Corwell Health, who has patients, right? And perhaps it was a differentiator, but we love to think of our consumers as those members, right? We want them to feel empowered and educated. And do they have...

Juan: 17:32

the membership, tied to you guys, like a monthly annual membership or is it just. Once they're in your system, they're a member. Is that, yeah.

Nadira: 17:40

So we have different plans right? To pay for insurance, whether on you're on Medicaid or Medicare, and you do get a cool member ID card, right? When you go to pay for healthcare services you show that and you have a copy, right? Or you have perhaps a high deductible depending on what plan you have and. We want our members to feel like they know how to use their plan. They can get the care that they need. And they're not tied up in, in really the how. It's just when you're feeling sick or when you need surgery or tests or anything, you wanna be focused on that. And that's where the experience comes in. We don't wanna be hindering you, as the insurance company. And I think insurance has like a. A bad rap, sometimes a stigma that, the insurers, they don't wanna cover this. We do care. And there's a lot of people at Priority Health who are trying to make a positive experience for our members so that they can get the care that they need that's affordable, that's gonna help them heal them and get them on the right track so they can get back to doing the things that they love.

Juan: 18:50

Yeah, that could be life changing, right? Getting Oh, totally. Yeah. A hundred percent. I, The member journey is, critical because you're dealing with people's health. What has been times in your line of work where you've had a moment where you had amazing success that you still think about that gets you excited or on the other side some challenges that you had to deal with? Maybe more recently during COVID time? I would love to hear about that.

Nadira: 19:24

Some challenges?

Juan: 19:27

I would say, or success. Or success stories, yeah. Gets you fired up.

Nadira: 19:32

It's easier to talk about successes, so I'm gonna actually lean into the hard part of challenges. Yeah. Early COVID communications were really gnarly. And you brought that up was COVID a catalyst to innovation and absolutely, certainly it was not just to healthcare, but a globally, right? Everyone started doing business differently, right? Where being able to meet digitally. But messaging to our members was just, it was intense. Our COVID test covered if you get sick with COVID, what does that look like in terms of getting care? Are you gonna have to pay thousands and thousands of dollars at the hospital? Like what is, your health plan or your insurance for? What does it cover? Navigating through that. Knowing that there's a government aspect to it, right? There's a compliance aspect, was really challenging. Things would change daily. They would change daily. But it was good for us from a culture standpoint to know that we have people here who care, who are strong, who are gonna be able to like weather the storm and being able to be a people leader. You articulate the changes and you enact change management in a way that. People are like, okay, you know I'm confident that we're headed in the right direction. I agree with these decisions. Let's go communicate this message to this member and make sure that the experience for getting and receiving test kits is seamless. So you don't have to be hung up and worried about how am I gonna get a test kit? it's just a couple clicks and, boom, it's there. Or even doing personalized nudges like. It wasn't just one shot, right? You had to have follow-up shots. Don't worry about remembering, we got it for you. We will let you know this is $0 and here's your friendly reminder to get your booster, for example.

Juan: 21:35

That's that's great. I am there's. A job that has challenges is is always a, in my view, this is an exciting job. You're getting up and gearing up to go battle and go through challenges and you're doing for a good cost or, help patients and members.

Nadira: 21:57

Yeah. I think that if it were too easy, it wouldn't be enjoyable. It's good to have those challenges and I know that you know all about that being leading such a fabulous company like Zingtree, like the challenges make it worth it, for sure. Yeah.

Juan: 22:13

And then the people, like you said, the people you associate and you work with, is, makes it all worth it to go through that journey. Who do you work with closely on your team within your organization? You've been there for six years now. You're probably, someone who, people look at, Hey, she's been there for a long time. So how do you work with, new people that come in? How have you worked with people who have been there for, a long time? How is your connection with the folks that you work with closely at Priority Health?

Nadira: 22:44

Yeah, so it's funny that you are asking this question cuz I actually just met with a newer team member. The new manager of Member Communications. She just came on board this Monday. And I am a very team-oriented person. I was like, Let's meet either in person or you can grab time on my calendar, 1, 2, 3, 4 times a week. It doesn't matter. I'm here to help cultivate that success and get you acclimated into this new role. I'm just very much so a people person, so I love making those connections, networking and helping others learn because, boy, there's a lot to learn in healthcare. Though I've been here for five years, I'm learning every single day. There's new products, there's new government compliance and restrictions. And just the other day, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, MDHHS, was sharing some news about the public health emergency. And so it's like, there's just so much to learn, and I'm honored that I'm able to help others who are just getting started or transitioning from, a clinical role to a business role. See, okay, here's the landscape, here's who to talk to about things. And by the way, I'll be your biggest cheerleader and help you make sure that you're, talking to the right people and working on the right stuff.

Juan: 24:11

So are you guys all pretty much back in the office? Or is it still, hybrid?

Nadira: 24:18

Yeah, it's mostly remote. There are like every Tuesday our team will get together. And I'm a big proponent of doing like in person only if it's meaningful. The worst thing that could happen is going into the office. And just being on Teams calls, Zoom calls all day. So I try to get the team into the office for sessions where we can, roll out the big whiteboard, have some sticky notes, jot stuff on the map or just have like team building and talk about like, how are we building our team? What are some of the processes and standard operating procedures we need to get in place, right? So we're better, we're stronger, we're gelling. It comes second nature to us instead of being confused on what's the next step in this process?

Juan: 25:07

Yeah. That's great. A Zingtree question. You found Zingtree a couple years ago working with your concierge team. You've been a huge supporter of Zingtree. Thank you for that. What advice would you give Zingtree Nation? There's a lot happening in tech, especially now with everything that you see out there with Open AI Chat, GPT, and all these, latest and greatest tech innovation that's happening. What advice do you have to give, Zingtree Nation so we can continue progressing and growing?

Nadira: 25:37

Oh man, Juan, you know how much I love Zingtree? I could not believe it. And you guys have grown and matured so much over the years. It's really awesome to see you guys journey. But when I found Zingtree. Just on a quick Google search, whoever was in charge of SEO back then was doing a great job. When I stumbled upon it, I was like, this is a gold mine. This is going to help us like lose the word documents, lose any weird sticky notes for prompts. This is a really cool tool that can just be embedded into whatever system CRM you are using. And it's gonna help your consumer service reps. It's gonna help your agents, right? The mental capacity that we all have is limited. As much as we wanna believe that we're superhuman. And I think I'm speaking for all of the working moms and stay-at-home moms like we are Superwomen, but we have a limited capacity. And you don't wanna put your agent or your CSR customer service rep in a bind and have them be stuck on something. When man, you could have just had a Zingtree script or, narration guide right there, ready to help them through really tough stuff. Sometimes it's hard to think on your feet and be quick-witted with certain languages. Or topics. And if you, especially when your members...

Juan: 27:18

maybe going through some tough times.

Nadira: 27:20

Exactly. Sometimes things are so sensitive and so you're like, I don't know how to navigate this conversation. That's why you have Zingtree, right? It really does help. Our reps, our concierge team understand, okay, this is how I can navigate this discussion, or in my case, offer this next best recommendation for you. Without sounding so clunky or too salesy, it builds that authenticity and it also builds the rapport. It allows the rep to build a relationship with the member. So I love it. I'm a...

Juan: 27:51

fan of, I know you love it, but how do we get better? Any advice for the...

Nadira: 27:55

oh, how do you guys get better? That's a tough...

Juan: 27:58

one. Maybe in relation, relative to healthcare space, obviously, we, we are fortunate to have healthcare customers like yourself, but as you see where healthcare going, where, is there some angle for Zingtree to keep evolving and helping the healthcare industry more?

Nadira: 28:14

I think I've only played around with the chat capability, the self-service the self-service tree. I think an enhancement there could really be beneficial. Juan, we've had conversations about what we're trying to do with. Our technology. And I think that having, an AI-enabled chatbot would be really something special.

Juan: 28:44

So that is part of our roadmap for this year. Good call, good validation, and we're on that path right now. Love it. Great. That's great. So this is awesome. It's great to hear about, your background, the CX industry and then your day-to-day work. It is great hearing about all this information. Thanks for sharing this, Nadira. I'd love to, get this thing wrapped up with a little personal side. I know you're busy. I know you've got a son. You're working hard. You're, working hard at home, working hard at work. What is your quiet time? What do you do when you're not, do you have any hobbies? I play a lot of pickleball now. Hopefully, we'll get to get you to play pickleball someday, but, what do you do as a hobby?

Nadira: 29:33

Yeah, I love spending time with family and honestly being outdoors. Michigan has a bad wrap, rightfully for terrible winters, but the summer, the fall, even the spring it's just really beautiful going out. On hikes, going to the lake shore. We call it going up north, right? We go either to the up, up north upper peninsula. It's just really beautiful. So if, if you like nature like me, it's really relaxing. I also love summer and fall because I get to ride my motorcycle, which is very free and relaxing.

Juan: 30:02

Really? So you go on these long rides. And you're going really fast. Like what's the story here?

Nadira: 30:09

Yeah. I used to, pre-children. I used to go on longer rides. I love going on. The road less traveled. I ride solo by myself. I just like to go on back roads throughout the country and I don't have, I'm not listening to music. I'm not distracted. It's just, my helmet, my bike, and I'm just with my thoughts, enjoying the scenery and yeah.

Juan: 30:32

That's awesome. That's great. Thank you for sharing that. As we wrap up, this is an important question, right? You've had an amazing career, you've got a, unique background and, you've had, success at Priority Health. What advice would you give someone who's just getting started in their career now? What kind of advice would you give a younger Nadira to make it happen?

Nadira: 30:55

Ooh, that is a good one. So it's important to hustle, right? Put in the work, be curious and humble, right? Like those are good things. Younger Nadira, the work ethic check plus, right? It's the immigrant hustle. But I would say the advice really comes into play where it's really take time to rest. Rest, relax and reflect. It's not sustainable to go a hundred miles per hour 24/7. Yep. I would tell my younger self you're gonna be fine kid. It's great that you're putting in the hours. And stretching yourself and growing, but don't be afraid to pause and reflect. That's gonna help to build those core competencies, build those relationships. Like reflection is key. And we live in a world where everything is like a sense of urgency and I'm, this is something I'm still working on myself. Not just my younger self, but just to pause, reflect on it. You don't have to answer right away. Really just, listen and meditate on what you just heard or learned. I can do that while I can take that piece of advice and I need that as well, but that's great! We all could, yeah. The hustle and at the same time, hustle and find the balance to reflect, pause, and reflect. That's great. That's great advice. Nadira, thank you so much for spending time with me today. Excited to have you on the podcast Nadira Kharmai, CX leader from Priority Health. Thanks again for your time.

Nadira: 33:28

Thank you so much, Juan! Take care.

Juan: 33:30

Take care. Have a good weekend. Thank you Nadira. You too. Bye-bye.