Consumer experience is something that health and human service provider organizations most likely didn’t think a lot about ten or fifteen years ago. In the past, consumer referrals were critical to success. But the “experience” of those consumers just didn’t move the needle in terms of financial reward. But, now that consumers are paying more of the bill and have heightened expectations for convenience – and consumer experience is an essential part of payer rating systems (see “Quality” Is In The Eye Of The Beholder and Performance Ratings In The Era Of Value-Based Purchasing) – it is a different situation.
The best evidence of the growing attention to this issue is the increase in the number of articles about consumer experience. Here are just a few of the recent headlines:
- NYC Health + Hospitals to overhaul its patient-experience strategy
- Hospital Improves Patient Experience
- How Top Rated Hospitals Are Improving the Patient Experience
- Reinventing Cancer Surgery—By Designing A Better Hospital Experience
- Geisinger to begin offering refunds to unsatisfied patients
So what do consumers value in the experience? Nurse and physician empathy, the cleanliness of the facility, patient information, and health care outcomes are the most strongly correlated with consumer satisfaction (see Research Identifies Key Factors In Consumer Satisfaction With Inpatient Health Services). But assuming you measure your consumers’ current perceptions of their experience with your organization, how do you improve it? I was impressed with the advice of Xavier Lhuer, Tunde Olanrewaju, and Hyo Yeon of McKinsey, in their article, What It Takes To Deliver Breakthrough Customer Experiences. Their seven steps to breakthrough experience are good advice for any organization – whether in health care or not. The authors discussed the need for organizations to deliver “breakthrough consumer experience” that sets their organizations apart by relying on what they term “next-generation digital thinking.”
1. From measuring customer behavior, to spending time with customers to truly understand them – Taking both qualitative (personal interviews, consumer experience surveys) and quantitative (data on consumer behavior and patterns) steps to understand your consumers is important, but what comes next? You need to understand your consumers and their motivations. This means following the consumer through their entire experience with your organization; this might mean utilizing “mystery shopper,” tactics, asking consumers to document their experience through consumer diaries, involving consumers directly in the design of your programs and procedures, and a continual process of live testing and incorporating feedback.
2. From designing the user interface, to designing the complete customer experience – Appearances matter, but they aren’t all that matter. It’s important to have a visually appealing website, a welcoming reception area, and a good front-facing image for your organization, but your consumer experience efforts can’t stop at the surface level. The next level of improved consumer experience means designing every interaction the consumer has with your organization to benefit that consumer. Is your website aesthetically pleasing, but is it also easy to use? Is your reception area comforting, but also do your receptionists have a convenient, consumer-driven process in place when a consumer arrives at your facility?
3. From addressing issues in the customer journey, to completely rethinking the customer experience – Sometimes optimizing the current consumer path through your organization is good, and sometimes building a new path is better. The “sunk-cost” mentality often pervades through organizations when they’re thinking about improving the consumer experience, but improving the existing process isn’t always enough. Sometimes you have to throw out the book and start fresh. The key is focusing on consumer needs, and not just on the existing process.
4. From working around the regulations, to rewriting the rules – Often there are rules and regulations in place to protect consumers that cannot be changed – and this is particularly true in health care. But these regulations often create a hurdle to consumers in an otherwise smooth experience. While you can’t ignore the rules, you should be sure that you are meeting all the requirements in the most efficient and convenient way possible. And then it’s time to think about the consumer experience in the long-run – sometimes lobbying for changes is the best path to an improved consumer experience.
5. From developing software using agile, to becoming an agile organization – Information technology and web development is often focused on being “agile,” but this doesn’t always translate throughout the organization. Often in an organization, some departments are fast and include iterative development, but this doesn’t mean that everyone follows suit. Creating better and more adaptive customer experiences means the entire organization possesses the necessary operational (and strategic) agility to make decisions quickly and move forward with one goal.
6. From delivering a product, to constant iteration – Developing products, programs, and services takes a long time – planning, testing, re-development. This often leads organizations down a long path, where they develop a program, test a program, and then think it’s final or finished because they went through an extended linear process. But program development needs to be a constantly moving process – there is not an endpoint where a program is finished. Organizations should always be looking for ways improve and redesign their programs or services for meeting the changing needs of their consumers.
7. From collaborating under the guidance of leaders, to working together spontaneously – An organization can never rise above its leader, but that doesn’t mean staff needs to always stand around waiting for direction. Input from all levels of the organization provides new perspectives that the executive team may not have considered. Organizations need to move staff beyond “traditional roles” and urge them to work together to reinvent and improve the customer experience.
For more, check out these resources in the OPEN MINDS Industry Library:
- Customer Service Is A Leadership Issue
- If Consumers Have A Choice, Will They Choose You?
- Succeeding In The Online Ratings Game – First, Know The Score
- Succeeding In The Online Ratings Game – Second, You Need A Plan
- How Far Are You Willing To Go To Improve Consumer Satisfaction?
The importance of the consumer experience is one that is going to continue to be important for the health and human service market. For executives of provider organizations, if you want to deliver a “breakthrough” consumer experience and rise above the competition, this is a conversation that needs to continue to happen. For more, check out the OPEN MINDS Market Intelligence Report, What Are The Behavioral Health Implications Of CMS Quality Initiatives?