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Myth-Busting Customer Centricity In Healthcare

Posted by Jennifer von Briesen on Tue, Jul 16, 2013

Target consumer or accountHealthcare in the US has been a hot media topic, and the Affordable Care Act’s next key provision that goes into effect on October 1 will bring about profound change in the health insurance industry. Consumers looking to buy individual health insurance will be able to enroll in subsidized plans offered through state-based exchanges with coverage beginning in January 2014.Regardless of the politics and adoption hurdles surrounding the subject, it’s crystal clear that health insurers will need to change the way they approach the market in the coming years. Challenging as it may be, this change represents opportunity as well. Not only will this regulation open up channels to sell direct to new customer segments that have previously been underserved or never served, but the shift to a more retail-oriented business model will push customer-centricity to the forefront of health insurers’ strategy.

So, what does customer centricity actually mean for insurers? It’s not something I have hard and fast answers to yet, but we’re collaborating with our clients to help define a path forward. Here are my top-level thoughts on some of the myths that need to be put to rest in order to build a successful customer strategy in the space:

MYTH: The consumer matters more than the ecosystem.
FACT: Up to now, consumers have generally been “extended stakeholders” in the health insurance ecosystem, and they are definitely an audience that insurers should be learning about and listening to more given the change on the horizon. However, serving the consumer well means also understanding how other players—employers, brokers and providers—are preparing for change. Be careful not to develop blind spots toward traditional stakeholders.

MYTH: If you build technology, the customers will come.
FACT: No doubt today’s consumers are open to social tools, apps and other tech solutions that will help them learn about and interact with companies. But in order for a new technology to really matter to consumers, it has to solve a pain point.  Without a deep understanding of what customers need, and a willingness to address root-level issues (such as consumer trust), a new technology is just a shiny object.

MYTH: You’ve got the right data…and it’s Big.
FACT: Insurers have a lot of data. But it’s primarily based on claims and transactional data, with very little gleaned directly from healthcare consumers themselves about wants, needs, and interaction pain points. The industry’s legacy of being claim-oriented continues to drive consumer dissatisfaction and distrust, so it’s not the ideal source for data that will build customer intimacy.

What other myths need to be busted in order for insurers to be truly customer centric? We’d love to hear from you and promise to share our thinking as it evolves.

Jennifer is a Director at  South Street Strategy Group. She recently received the 2013 “Member of the Year” award by the Association for Strategic Planning (ASP), the preeminent professional association for those engaged in strategic thinking, planning and action.

South Street Strategy Group, an independent sister company of Chadwick Martin Bailey, integrates the best of strategy consulting and marketing science to develop better growth and value delivery strategies. 

Topics: South Street Strategy Group, strategy consulting, healthcare research, health insurance research, big data, customer experience and loyalty