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Key State Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plan: A Strategy for Winning in the Market through Customer-Focused Service


Key State Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plan (a disguised case of an actual BCBS Plan) is the merged product of three state plans. Initially burdened with a reputation of poor customer service, Key State's executives decided to invest heavily in service improvement, eventually achieving superior levels. Key State's high-quality customer service emerged as a true competitive advantage for its customers, who were primarily businesses and health benefits consultants who influenced corporate purchasers of health insurance. The Key State brand came to be synonymous with personal service, security, choice, and dependability.

But the health care insurance market was changing under Key State's feet. Spiraling costs meant that high-quality service became less of a competitive advantage as employers were lured by low-cost, low-service providers. Many employers cut or dropped health care benefits entirely, swelling the ranks of the under- and uninsured, who in turn were extremely price-sensitive when shopping for health insurance on their own. Finally, the health care insurance market was being revolutionized by financial institutions willing to hold health benefit accounts and pay providers directly, thereby eliminating the need for Key State as a mediator.

Key State executives were aware of these changes but were challenged by the mindset, culture, and organizational design custom-fit to their business accounts. The case asks the reader to consider whether Key State has the right number of target markets, whether it should have one brand or several for its different target markets, what it should do for the uninsured, and how it should improve its brand experience in light of the industry's changing landscape. All of these decisions will have significant implications for the organizational design of Key State.




Robert Dewar

Date Published



Dewar, Robert. Key State Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plan: A Strategy for Winning in the Market through Customer-Focused Service. Case 5-409-750 (KEL436).


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