Do consumers feel the same kind of warm, fuzzy feeling toward their healthcare providers or insurers that they do toward their smartphones? Simply put, they don’t, and that lack of loyalty has the healthcare industry concerned – as well it should be.
Maybe it’s easy to understand. You can’t play Candy Crush on your insurer’s website, and texts from your doctor are usually to remind you about an appointment you may not be that enthusiastic to keep. Most of us don’t even see our doctors that often or need to file insurance claims regularly. While patients can give providers and payers four stars in satisfaction surveys, healthcare organizations aren’t really sure they’ll promote them with their friends, or more importantly, even come back.
Are healthcare providers and payers magnetic enough to build consumer loyalty?
The test is whether consumers feel like they have something to lose if they look elsewhere. And most in the healthcare industry doubt whether they build the kind of enduring love and fidelity that iPhones or Androids have been able to generate with their respective users – even after devices literally burst into flames or suffer buggy upgrades and bad design changes.
Loyalty isn’t reserved for mobiles. Take Southwest Airlines. Its combination of low-ish fares, surprise sales, friendly desk agents, two free bags, A-B-C boarding groups, and wisecracking flight attendants has produced a significant number of consumers who literally arrange their travel itinerary, even vacations, around the availability of Southwest flights. Sure, Southwest loses bags and suffers flight delays the same as any airlines, but United Airlines, for example, gets inundated with 20 times the number of complaints for the same problems. Is the airline 20 times worse, or does it just lack the magnetism of a Southwest? Has it failed to build the bond that lets passengers excuse some problems?
Such magnetic organizations and product lines provide lessons for healthcare providers and payers trying to become indispensable partners with their consumers. And the lessons begin with understanding the value being provided.
HOW IT ADDS UP
The basic formula for corporate magnetism:
F + E + $ = Magnetism
F stands for functionality: What burning consumer problem is a company or industry trying to solve, and what hassles is it going to eliminate? An iPhone, for example, fulfills so many different functions and solves so many problems: It's a newspaper, book, wallet, address book, daily planner, camera, family photo book, and journal. It never loses train tickets; it provides maps and directions on command; and it plays the music the owner loves – and the data it stores syncs with – and the information syncs with other electronic devices automatically. The byproduct: the undying loyalty its owners feel towards the product and Apple.
One would think healthcare would have functionality in the bag – after all, it keeps you alive and healthy. But it comes at a big price – expense, scheduling hassles, confusion, a lack of trust. Most healthcare consumers experience a thicket of administration and complexity between them and the care they need. First, it’s finding a doctor that’s in-network with convenient appointments. Then, there’s the unwelcome paperwork and opaque language from their insurance company. How can a consumer feel loyalty to organizations that act like they don’t trust or welcome them? Providers and payers who remove those obstacles are on their way to magnetism and creating lasting relationships, especially when their competitors aren't following suit.