Getting to know your customers before they do

How private healthcare companies can adopt best practice to meet the expectations their new customers don't know they have yet

Is it enough for companies to be the best version of what they already are? KAE has discussed previously how companies must balance expectation and perceived performance to address the needs of both experienced consumers and those new to a product respectively.

In addition, and as shown below, KAE has previously demonstrated how advanced regression techniques can be used to provide a genuine cross-industry comparison of customer experience perception beyond simply looking at net promoter scores.

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We are able to show that user perceptions of customer experience vary significantly between groups that experience product / service delivery across different industries. In the table above, we can see how the ranking of UK industries is re-ordered when looking at consumers who are private healthcare customers. How can we use this information, and our understanding of the interrelations of expectation and perceived performance to advise the private healthcare industry as to how to improve?

Only 12% of UK consumers in the survey by KAE were users of private healthcare, so it is not difficult to argue that the industry should place emphasis on the experience of new customers. As this implies that perceived performance is more important than experience, we propose that our ranking exercise of UK companies for existing customers provides a solution for this.

Reviewing the re-ordered ranking of UK companies shows a number of sectors favoured by private healthcare consumers when compared with the general population. We include three for consideration:

  • Travel operators and hotels
  • Supermarkets
  • Department stores

While there are some obvious parallels in experience between these industries and private healthcare, the complete customer experience of private healthcare does not perfectly match any of the above. Instead we use an assessment of ‘touchpoints’ to target those measures which have made the industries above successful with this user group to reveal measures that will meet perceived performance requirements for private health customers.

KAE uses a touchpoint-led approach to analyse customer experience. Touchpoints, as distinct from channels and consumer journeys are defined as discrete tasks that consumers complete in order to achieve an objective, for example; checking in to a hospital as part of a journey to have a non-invasive procedure completed. Any touchpoint can involve a combination of channels, and be part of multiple journeys. The advantage of this kind of approach is that it allows for the analysis of customer experience in the context of the actual function of a company, rather than addressing the issue through channel silos that don’t reflect reality. With the output of the KAE model, and as shown in figure 3 we are able to show the average importance of the different touchpoints for private healthcare users.

Figure 3: Key driver analysis of the private healthcare industry showing the relative importance of the 9 defined touchpoints.

In the table below, we have mapped the overlap between likely touchpoints to the industries we have shown to be favoured by private healthcare customers. This allows us to assess which touchpoints in private healthcare can be augmented through an analysis of best practice from relevant industries.

Innovations that the private healthcare industry can adopt to enhance the experience of relevant touchpoints

Consultation

Our analysis has shown that the ‘consultation’ touchpoint is one of the most important for patients. We have defined consultation to be the process at the beginning of a consumer journey where the customer speaks with an expert prior to making any decisions as to how to proceed. Retail brands such as Harvey Nichols and John Lewis have stated the importance of having well-trained staff members. Both companies have recently launched staff training programs with the objective of making staff members more confident to help customers across all of the business.  John Lewis takes the proposition of highly informed staff members further, focusing on empowering them to take certain decisions in a customer-facing environment without consulting management.

The travel industry has taken this approach one step further. Emirates not only empowers staff to make decisions, but prepares them to succeed in under-pressure situations with special training sessions that include role-playing scenarios (e.g. control over giving compensation, free drinks).  This gives staff members the confidence to take decisions themselves on the spot.

The private healthcare industry should follow the steps of these companies and invest resources in their staff, since this is their point of contact with patients. It would be impossible for this particular industry to let staff members take all decisions, especially when a patient’s health is at stake. However, it is possible, through training, and possibly implementing the kind of role-playing activity used by Emirates, to make sure customer facing staff are as prepared as possible for a wide range of customer enquiries and requests. In addition, defining areas of activity where members of staff have some form of discretionary decision-making capability could serve to further improve overall experience.

 

Finding information

According to our model, the ‘finding information’ touchpoint has an importance of just 2.4% for private healthcare. From the industries considered, we have observed significant investment from companies including John Lewis, Selfridges, Ocado, and Emirates aimed at improving how customers find information. In particular, investment in websites has been significant for the last few years, with Selfridges investing a reported £40m back in 2014. More recently, Debenhams has partnered with Userzoom in an effort to make its web experience more consumer-centric across both desktop and mobile. Indeed, the push to provide information across channels is common in retail and in the case of John Lewis has been central to its strategy since 2013!

While retail has made public moves to unify customer information across channels, the travel industry has chosen to expand the range of data it pushes to customers before they book. Information about meals and inflight entertainment is now available to Emirates customers before they confirm which flight they take.

 

The UK’s private healthcare industry can take a number of lessons from these examples, such as information that is important to its customers available more easily, regardless of channel. In addition, it can consider providing ‘non-essential’ experience information (that is nonetheless important to customers) such as meals and entertainment, to set expectations in advance and give customers a greater feeling of control.

We have discussed the importance of identifying the route of change; the next step is to think about how to track the changes that need to be made.

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