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By Aida Porras, M.A.

“Will people miss you if you are gone?” – Seth Godin

In a recent LinkedIn interview, Marketing Legend Seth Godin on the Future of Branded Content, marketing expert Seth Godin was asked about the metrics that best show that an organization is “doing work that matters.” In response, Mr. Godin replied, “I think the only one that I care about is: Will people miss you if you are gone?” This question will no doubt speak to people in different ways. If consumers do miss you, what is it about your organization and services that will be missed – and can that easily be supplied by another organization in your market? And how do you deliver the kind of service that consumers will miss? For most organizations that are “retail,” it is increasingly important to personalize and streamline consumer access to services, demonstrating concern about their experiences and the value to their relationship.

This concept is especially important for health and human service organizations. Consumers who once used to accept poor service as routine now have heightened expectations when it comes to quality, price, and convenience (see No Consumers Without Customer Service and Out-Service Your Competition). Based on these expectations, consumers are becoming savvier about their purchasing decisions.

Consumer perception of quality and convenience are shaped in part by a combination of consumer experience and consumer engagement. What is the difference? Consumer experience is “the sum of all interactions, shaped by an organization’s culture that influence patient perceptions, across the continuum of care.” And it’s the same in all industries (see Defining Patient Experience).

In contrast, consumer engagement is slightly different. In pure marketing terms, consumer engagement is “the ongoing interactions between company and customer, offered by the company, chosen by the customer” (see CRM Expert Paul Greenberg Defines Customer Engagement). Consumer engagement can be measured (see Customers 2020: The Future of B-to-B Customer Experience) with four metrics:

  1. Usage – The breadth and depth of service penetration (e.g., purchase patterns, usage metrics, etc.)
  2. Sentiment – The frequency and magnitude of customer thoughts and feelings (e.g., net promoter scores, customer loyalty, sentiment on social media, etc.)
  3. Involvement – The ways in which customers interact with the organization (e.g., do they attend events, are they willing to be a reference, will they share a case study, do they engage via social media, do they co-create, etc.)
  4. Competitive Status – How engaged is the customer with the competition (e.g., share of wallet)

In health and human services, the term engagement is used slightly differently: the “actions individuals must take to obtain the greatest benefit from the health care services available to them… Engagement signifies that a person is involved in a process through which he harmonizes robust information and professional advice with his own needs, preferences and abilities in order to prevent, manage and cure disease” (see A New Definition of Patient Engagement: What is Engagement and Why is it Important?Challenges of Conceptualizing Patient Engagement In Healthcare, and Consumers In Healthcare: The Burden of Choice).

The ability to “engage” consumers is increasingly important both from a marketing perspective and from a consumer care perspective. And, both of these functions are easier to accomplish for managers of provider organizations through the use of technology.

From the marketing perspective, consumer engagement is about building relationships between consumers and your organization. As my colleague Tim Snyder has discussed, this is best accomplished through a digital marketing program. More than ever, consumers are searching for health care providers online – and making purchasing decisions based on what they find on websites, social media, and online ratings and rankings. To develop a successful online marketing strategy, organizations need to polish their online brand with a strategy that covers organization websites, search engine results, email communications, mobile and text platforms, video streaming, social media, digital advertising, and online reputation (see Running A Best Practice Digital Marketing Program: Using Online Marketing & Social Media To Your Advantage).

From the consumer care perspective, consumer engagement is about making consumers part of their care planning. Technology-enabled consumers can educate themselves about their conditions online; help to manage their care at home and in the community through smartphone apps and remote monitoring technologies; access online decision support tools to aid in self-diagnosis; and stay in contact with their health care professionals via email, text messages, and online forums (see Building Your Own Tech-Enabled Consumer Base ).

If you have an engaged consumer base that is involved and invested in your organization, you can be sure that your answer to Mr. Godin’s question will be a resounding yes. And, for more on engaging consumers in their care in the community, join me at The 2015 OPEN MINDS Technology & Informatics Institute on October 27 for the session, Community-Based Treatment Through Technology: Remote Monitoring, Wearables & More, featuring OPEN MINDS Senior associate Sharon Hicks with Gerry Miller, Founder & Chief Technologist, Cloudticity, and Frederick Muench, Ph.D., Director, Digital Health Interventions, North Shore-LIJ Health System.

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