According to Accenture, “U.S. hospitals that deliver “superior” customer experience achieve net margins that are 50 percent higher, on average, than those hospitals providing “average” customer experience.” However, as of 2017, many healthcare provider organizations continue to lag behind more progressive industries when it comes to digital consumer experience enablement, opting for traditional, outdated marketing tactics that don’t meet today’s consumers’ expectations for doing business.
In fact, a recent PwC survey found only 49 percent of healthcare consumers are currently satisfied with their overall consumer experience. Not only do consumers increasingly prefer healthcare providers that deliver relevant and highly personalized content across a multitude of channels, but they are also demonstrating a willingness to change providers in search of a better (i.e., more convenient and empowering) experience—the type that has become commonplace in the retail and hospitality industries.
But as other complex industries like financial services have proven, change is inevitable. It is certain, provider brands can’t “sit out” the 21st century Consumer Experience wars. Shots are fired every second from Oklahoma to Ottawa, from Seattle to St. Louis. No brand is safe. However, legacy technology, regulatory obstacles, security and privacy concerns, and data silos make it hard for most organizations to deliver the seamless, omni-channel experience consumers crave. When it comes to developing a contemporary digital consumer experience, one of the biggest challenges facing resource-constrained healthcare marketing departments is answering the question, “Where to begin?”.
Focusing on personas and developing condition and service-line specific consumer journeys can help develop a solid picture of who to target and how to engage them in effective ways, which should drive the organization’s overarching personalization strategy. Coupled with a content management system that delivers just-in-time content through every step of the consumer journey, marketers will gain the power they need to evolve well beyond ineffective, interruptive “marketing” to highly effective consumer experience enablement. Here are three steps to take immediately to begin to deliver a superior consumer health experience in 2018.
Step One: Develop Distinct Personas
Personas are fictional, believable examples of actual in-market consumers that characterize an organization’s ideal customers. In healthcare, they represent the ideal patient, and are developed based on real data from patient interviews, surveys and questionnaires. This qualitative research can augment the understanding of how consumers behave with insight into the “whys,” providing important nuances and details that humanize the personas and identify opportunities to deliver more satisfactory service and overall patient experience.
As a result, personas go deeper than generalized consumer segments by having individual names and stories that reflect personal attributes and behavioral characteristics, and identify each individual’s demographics, behaviors, pain points, and needs.
When developing personas, organizations should include elements such as gender, age and generation, career, industry and income, education, lifestyle, goals & challenges and digital activity. This level of detail ensures that the marketing, administration and care teams are laser focused on meeting the needs of their target audience. The more real they are, the more these teams can identify with them and map their own actions and attitudes toward delivering the best possible consumer experience at each subsequent touchpoint.
By defining different segments of a healthcare organizations’ audience through persona mapping, marketers can determine which message is most appropriate, at what time, and across what channel. Understanding what messages work best for which parts of the audience allows healthcare organizations to maximize their time and budget and not waste limited resources on someone who is not the right fit.
These distinct personas can be used to create consumer journey maps that describe each persona’s experience at various touch points during their lifecycle with the organization. Much of the information for creating consumer journey maps will come from personas, which is why it’s best to create the personas first.
Step Two: Create Consumer Journey Maps
The goal of consumer journey maps is to help everyone on the team develop a deep understanding of the process consumers go through in researching symptoms and health conditions, selecting a provider, scheduling an appointment, evaluating their treatment options, and managing their day-to-day health. With the consumer at the forefront, a journey map outlines the full end-to-end experience, starting with the moment a consumer first experiences a health problem or symptom through their decision to use the organization’s services, the actual treatment and recovery, and how they may choose to share their experience with others, after the fact.
To deliver a great consumer experience is to view the world through the eyes of the consumer and provide value to that customer at every step, which means journey maps should align consumers’ goals and actions to specific touch points, tools and channels. These consumer “moments of truth” deserve special emphasis, because they are often where brand inconsistencies and disconnected experiences are uncovered. In fact, with consumer journey maps, healthcare organizations can easily identify where to focus resources, identify gaps, highlight opportunities for improvement, increase patient engagement, and drive revenue.
To more accurately develop these maps and further flush out the consumer journey, healthcare should engage a cross-functional team of marketing, administration, IT, and clinical delivery department representatives to gain diverse perspectives and uncover any additional gaps that the marketing team may not have known about. Keep in mind, however, that while the map is one example of a likely journey, the consumer always remains a free agent. No one can control what stage consumers will enter the journey, through what channel and when.
Therefore, marketers must consider the consumer journey as an estimated and educated guess as to what are the most likely touchpoints for a particular procedure, service, etc. To successfully navigate and reach the right consumers through the right channels, it’s important to have coverage on as much of the consumer journey roadmap as possible. Once an organization has developed its target personas and identified their consumer journeys, it can then deliver a personalized experience every step of the way.
Step Three: Let’s Get Personal
Personalization is a core tenet of superior consumer experience. In fact, 73 percent of consumers prefer to do business with brands that use personalization to make their experiences more relevant. Finding the right opportunities to do this, the ones that matter most, is easiest after spending time upfront developing personas and customer journey maps for the target audience.
Through personalization, healthcare organizations have the ability to create value for their consumers by developing meaningful relationships with them. Further, personalization enables healthcare marketers to listen and respond to the consumer’s needs for better service and expectations for digital experiences, as well as facilitate two-way communication with the consumer in the moments that matter most.
From a content marketing perspective, personalization means delivering content at the right time to the right person to help progress the consumer through their journey and, arguably, towards a healthcare organization’s service line offering. By knowing when and where website visitors are in the healthcare decision making cycle, for example, organizations can reveal content that anticipates their questions and needs and helps guide them down a preferred path – like finding a physician or scheduling an appointment.
There’s no doubt, excelling at consumer experience is complicated, but establishing a shared vision and roadmap across the organization will help streamline efforts. Connecting with patients and consumers in this way is certainly challenging, but by leveraging key personas and consumer journeys, organizations can develop a clear picture of their audience and how to reach them with personalized messaging, content, and experiences. With consumer experience being the new competitive battleground in healthcare, the rewards will go to those marketing leaders who are willing to break new ground.
Kyra Hagan, senior vice president and general manager, marketing and communications, at Influence Health, a healthcare marketing-based provider of data-driven, multi-channel, and highly personalized solutions to address today’s digital challenges.