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Customer Strategist Journal
Innovative strategies for building more profitable customer relationships. Published quarterly online and in print.
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A Healthy Dose of Customer Strategy

A Prescription for Customer-Centric Healthcare

To say that the healthcare industry is complex is like migraine sufferers saying they have a slight headache. Depending on the situation, the healthcare "customer" may be the actual patient, but it may be the doctor or another caregiver, or a hospital or other healthcare facility, or a business or association providing employees or members with healthcare coverage; the list goes on. Within each customer group there are various influencers; these influencers may also be a part of another customer group. The many relationships intertwine and overlap. In some cases communication is outstanding and trust is implicit; in other cases it's quite the opposite.

Delivering a consistent, satisfactory, and profitable customer experience in this environment is as elusive as the elixir of life. There are, however, remedies any organization can use to improve the health of its customer relationships.

Know your customers: It's imperative to understand each end customer in order to determine their needs and priorities. This will allow an organization to create and offer the right products, deliver appropriate service, and grow more profitably. It also important to know each customer's influencers, as their relationship might impact the customer's priorities and expectations.

Communicate in a common language: Trust and satisfaction will increase when customers better understand everything from the business rules, parameters, and expectations to marketing communications, benefit documents, and contracts. For example, instead of "provider," which could mean insurer or doctor, etc., depending on which customer is involved in the conversation, use "insurer" or "doctor" or what have you. Clarity is essential.

Create a customer-centric culture: Everyone in an organization impacts the customer experience in some way. Explain that connection to each employee, so they understand their influence not only on the customer experience, but ultimately on overall business performance. Communicate clearly and often. Train as necessary, and on an ongoing basis. Offer compensation or incentives based on customer satisfaction measures.

Bridge silos: Understanding customers and fostering customer centricity are both more likely to happen in an organization that can create a holistic view of its customers across departments, channels, and touchpoints. Organizations should implement processes and deploy supporting technologies that promote information sharing--as allowed within regulations, of course. More than shared customer databases, this could also include customer insight gathered through social channels, employee feedback, and data gathered in the contact center.

Team up: Building a profitable approach to customer-centric business strategy requires an ongoing commitment from the C-suite. Appoint a senior-level executive champion, and then create a cross-functional team that can deliver consistent doses of customer-centric communication, training, and strategy over time. As with any ailment, unless a full course of treatment is followed, symptoms will reappear.