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Health Care

Unhealthy Customer Care

Unhealthy Customer Care

Photograph by Thomas Barwick/Getty Images

Symptom: Buying health insurance leaves people feeling frustrated, confused, and anxious.
Diagnosis: When communicating with customers, it’s all about your business model, using your insurance lingo (impenetrable to regular folks). This just perpetuates the image that the health-care industry is an obstacle course focused on its problems and the concerns of the corporate customer, not the individual in need of care.

Before we get to a specific treatment plan, we want to point out that we’ve done extensive research in multiple categories but we’re focusing on the health care industry as the example of a widespread problem: delusional managers who believe they have a good relationship with their customers.

To be blunt, health-care providers really don’t know what people need. What good does it do to send out a monthly newsletter if customers throw it away without opening the envelope? What good are all those e-mails if no one clicks to open them?

All right, you say. “Our hands are tied. We are in a highly regulated industry.”

To which we say, with all the respect due: poppycock.

The automobile insurance industry is as heavily regulated as your own, and they have come up with ways to innovate and even have fun. Have you seen the Progressive ads featuring Flo?

You can love or hate Flo, but there is no doubt she has been effective in:
A. Communicating that at the Progressive website, you can compare prices against the competition, even if Progressive is more expensive. (People love this kind of transparency.)
B. Explaining that Progressive will let you, in essence, write your own insurance policy.
C. Informing you that if you give Progressive information about the way you drive, you could save money.

That is what the “Snapshot Discount” is all about. Drivers put a small device in their cars that monitors their driving and sends that information to Progressive. If you drive safely and operate during the safer periods of the day, you save money—up to 30%.

The point here is to show that your customers are used to getting good, responsive service elsewhere. If you don’t provide it in your industry, somebody else will—even in health care. When (not if) that happens, your dominant market share will evaporate.

Instead of waiting for the inevitable and then hoping you can play “catch up,” why not focus on deeply understanding what consumers want to become the Progressive of your industry?

Maddock is chief executive, and Vitón is president, of Maddock Douglas, an innovation consultancy that specializes in inventing and launching new products, services, and businesses. Maddock and Viton are the authors of Free the Idea Monkey (ISB Publishing, 2012), and Maddock is the author of Brand New: Solving the Innovation Paradox—How Great Brands Invent and Launch New Products, Services, and Business Models (Wiley, 2011).

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