Thursday, June 7, 2018

Improving Customer Loyalty in Healthcare with Digital Empathy

Brandon Rozelle, SVP, Growth Strategy
Strategy / Design

This article was originally published as a Partner Perspective on the Sitecore blog.

Disruption is taking place in every industry. Whether a new subscription sidesteps brick-and-mortar outlets (e.g., Dollar Shave Club) or local goods are repackaged for customer convenience (e.g., Blue Apron), retail disruption is evidenced in the daily news. What if I told you the same disruption is coming for your industry? While it doesn't make as much press, or yet drive widespread social media awareness…manufacturing, business, financial services, and—yup—healthcare all stand poised for innovative disruption inside the next 24 to 36 months. Writer and essayist William Gibson said, “The future has already arrived…it's just not evenly distributed yet.” That perfectly sums up the convergence on the horizon. Loyalty is the new opportunity for healthcare providers, and the only way to improve healthcare customer loyalty is with digital empathy.

Healthcare is our nation's fifth-largest industry, up from seventh largest just a few years ago. Systems are rapidly acquiring one another with the goal of removing direct competition and satisfying the needs of an entire family without risking them going out of system for specialized care. The roughly 5,300 individual health system providers that existed entering 2018 number fewer than 4,900 as of this publication date. Nationally, the number is shrinking 5-7% per annum. Costs are soaring, choices are fewer, and digital natives are becoming a larger market segment (e.g., head-of-household decision makers under the age of 40). With emergent technologies such as AI, augmented reality (AR), and machine learning evolving much more widespread application, the conditions are ripe for disruptive transformation in healthcare. Look no further than the recent CVS-Aetna acquisition—where a clear goal of the deal is to aggressively pursue the nearly $4 billion left on the table by 47% of patients who never bother to fill their prescription (in North America alone).

Improving customer loyalty

Customer loyalty is the new name of the game, with customers willing to pay up to 23% more for a better experience. The barrier to entry for driving loyalty in healthcare is understanding your customers’ behaviors and needs, then engaging them in the place and way most impactful to them. What if I told you that a state-of-the-art hospital in Dubai is using a mobile app in concert with beacons and kiosks to create a white-glove, concierge experience for their patients? You walk through a door, trip a geo-fence, and the app notifies you that you've been digitally signed in for your visit—while providing directions to your waiting area, anticipated wait time, and indicators of the closest restroom and café, should you desire a stop before finding a seat. You never have to show your insurance card or identification. You are treated with empathy and respect. A month ago, I became aware of a health system in North America experimenting with Alexa skills to verbally remind elderly patients when to take their medication. A week ago, I heard about a children's hospital using a reverse tele-health concept to allow family members to virtually participate in both treatment and enrichment activities with the patient receiving care.

Digital empathy

Using digital plus empathy to try to promote faster healing and better outcomes is just getting started. These are just a few examples of the many innovations in the future of healthcare. Those who offer the most experiential value will win the loyalty of their customers—and yes, patients are customers. Join us as we continue the conversation around digital empathy. We would love to add your voice and experiences to what we and many of your peers are seeing and experiencing. Perhaps we will help spark an idea that will allow you to drive disruption rather than wait for it to come calling. The future of healthcare is customer loyalty. By understanding behavior, relevance, and need, we can use digital empathy to create brand “stickiness” and promote a lifelong partnership between patients and care providers. To activate digital empathy, you must:

1. Seek to understand your customer. Define them, their habits, their needs, where they seek information, and where you might be able to assist.

2. Craft interactions and experiences that recognize and know your customers. Personalize content to feel relevant. Delight them.

3. Build within your organization a way to estimate and understand your performance. Measure. Assess how your interactions and content are performing. Review. Refine. Iterate.

Only then can you truly activate digital empathy.

Want to learn more about mastering healthcare's digital transformation? Catch our on-demand webinar.

Brandon Rozelle is the vice president of digital and solution strategy for Rightpoint, a Sitecore Platinum Partner. Follow him on LinkedIn or Twitter.