The healthcare industry is dramatically changing. It’s happening because of technology, politics, economics, and empowered consumers. Today’s consumer is connected, juggling multiple devices, on the go, and want their voices heard. They crave information and connections—practically in real-time. This is every organization’s new business reality.
Experts and pundits have coined it the “Relationship Era.” As empowered consumers access social and digital platforms to voice opinions, the days of mass, one-way marketing are gone. It’s a two-way relationship now. The healthcare industry, ironically, hasn’t exactly been the best in developing “relationships” with patients, members or consumers. It’s been a bit of a machine pushing you through the process. Whether its doctors with increasingly limited face time or the cloud of uncertainty over insurance fees and processes, the healthcare industry hasn’t gotten high marks in personal relations. But that’s changing. Businesses and organizations must understand how to create valuable, personal and engaging relationships with their consumers. And it’s going to require completely rethinking your approach—across people, processes and technology.
An article in last week’s Wall Street Journal entitled, “When Email is Part of the Doctor’s Treatment” was another reminder of the Relationship Era. It talked about how many consumers today expect their doctors to communicate through email, text, social media and other non-traditional outlets. The article cited doctors that have embraced digital channels and believe they make their practice more efficient and patients more satisfied. That’s good for business. That’s cultivating patient relationships. But the article also cited a medical professional who avoids those channels in favor of phone calls and office visits. He had his reasons. And I’m certain he is an excellent doctor. The problem is, in the relationship era, that won’t cut it.
Of course I realize with digital communications comes the all-important privacy issues and responsibilities. No one wants private medical information in the wrong digital hands. No doctor wants an email or text misinterpreted that leads to a patient taking the wrong action. But the shift is occurring. Consumers today communicate across multiple devices, are mobile and have access to more information and services than ever before. We Google. Text. Tweet. Pin. Post. Share. Email. And all in real-time. An entire generation and culture is being conditioned to on-demand access and sharing. Businesses must adapt.
It’s not just doctors, of course. Today’s empowered consumer is reshaping how every health and wellness business, organization and brand interacts with consumers from insurers to retailers to health and wellness products. It’s forcing businesses to meet and engage with their consumers when and where they are—and consumers are constantly moving between their offline and online worlds. Is your organization providing a consistent brand experience across all touch points?
So what is a healthcare business leader to do? I’m sure for most reading this you’ve already started to embrace this new reality and adapt. For those that haven’t, here’s five suggestions how organizations can succeed in the “Relationship Era.”
1. Know & Own Your Brand: While this might sound intuitive, it’s often surprising how brands deviate from their true identity and try to be all things to all people. It’s easy to happen in today’s highly competitive, fast-paced market. But it’s a mistake. Focus is key. Listen to what consumers are saying about your brand across the social sphere. What resonates? Revaluate your core purpose, product and reason for being—what makes your brand/product great? Make sure you are communicating that efficiently and effectively across every consumer touch point.
2. Breakdown Organizational Silos: Does your marketing, customer service, product, digital, social and sales teams effectively collaborate—across people, processes and technology? Or do they operate in silos? Examine how your organization works and break down those unnecessary silos. Businesses today must collaborate across departments to succeed. Remember, consumers don’t care about your “org” chart and all your non-connected departments. They view you as one brand. So provide one, consistent and engaging experience across every interaction point.
3. Embrace the Data: Your organization most likely has a wealth of data across its online and offline channels. But are they connected or separated? Aggregated and connected data provides a true, holistic view of your consumer. There’s a treasure trove to data to be mined, aggregated and learned from to truly understand and engage with your consumer to provide an exceptional customer experience.
4. Mobile, Mobile, Mobile: Of course no marketing list is worth its salt without mentioning mobile. Consumers are interacting increasingly on smartphones and tablets. What is your brand experience like across those platforms? Not sure? Better check it out and make it incredible. It might be soon consumers’ primary way of interacting with you…so it better be your best.
5. Be Customer-Centric: Put yourself in your customer’s shoes as often as you can. Listen, learn, create, tailor and personalize an incredible customer experience for them—and across all touch points. The traditional ‘marketing funnel’ is dead. Today’s successful marketer puts their customer at the center. They listen, learn and engage with them, providing valuable information, content and interactions. They develop relationships. Do you?