Category Archives: relationship

Customer Love: Southwest Airlines Does It Again!

I fly SWA a lot. I love their philosophy, how they do business, and how I am treated. One of their core tenets is loving their customers and being heart-centered. I think it’s their most potent differentiator.

Their latest way of showing customer love is with their “Heart of Travel” personalized artwork project. I got an email saying this:

And it gave me a link to “View your artwork” which told me Southwest is celebrating my loyalty to them by creating a custom-made work of art based on my flights with them this past year.

It’s not just a random piece of art. It’s an actual representation of my flights with them, which makes it strategically aligned with their business objectives, their brand, and my customer experience  (media story here).

Here’s a video about how they came up with the idea and actually generate the individual works of art. Pretty cool stuff.

And… without further ado, here is my very own “Heart of Travel” one-of-a-kind SWA poster representing all my 2016 SWA flights.

Now imagine a med tech company or healthcare system or insurance company or non-profit taking this same idea of: a) celebrating its customers, providers, or patients, b) providing them a unique gift that both surprises and delights them, and c) employing  an approach that is authentic, on purpose, and on message. The creative possibilities are endless, and the payoff I believe enormous.

Where does it start? By loving your customers.

Healthcare Trends: What Customers Want – and Don’t Want – From Insurers vs. Providers

There are three significant and interrelated trends we are seeing from our research with health insurers and their members, providers and patients, and payer-provider systems. Taken together, these trends point to specific directions for health plans and healthcare provider organizations to take in order to better engage and satisfy their customers.

Improving Health: 3 Trends in What People Want

  1. More people want personalized health advice on what’s right for them.
  2. They expect doctors to provide them advice on their physical health and medications. But for lifestyle issues like stress management, weight loss, sleep–they seek solutions elsewhere.
  3. For lifestyle changes, they are open to advice from insurers–as long as it’s tied to how to use their health plan to stay healthy.

One key driver of the differences in what people want from their health plan vs. from their providers is mindset. Generally, people take on a “patient” mindset when they are sick and actively needing care from providers. They take on a “consumer” mindset when making lifestyle choices for chronic conditions and when dealing with their insurance company. These different mindsets lead them to want, expect, and accept different things from insurers than from providers. Understanding these two mindsets is critical for insurers and providers to develop the right programs and services people want and will use.

What People Want From Providers: The Patient Mindset

When a person has an acute illness or injury, they are in patient mode. What do patients want, and from whom? Patients want advice from their provider on their condition, symptoms, medication, treatment, and prognosis. Patients believe providers have the training and expertise to help them and should have their best interest in mind. After all, that’s what doctors, nurses, and other providers are meant to do.

Patients do not want advice from their insurance company about what care is appropriate for acute illness or injury. Right or wrong, patients often see insurers as obstacles to optimal care, not enablers. In the heat of the moment, they may lose sight of the fact that their health plan provides them with significant benefits and instead they focus on what they don’t get.

For many health conditions, patients sort of have to trust. As my friend and lifetime health educator, the late Dr. Shimon Camiel, said: “Sure, if I have high blood pressure, I want to be empowered and involved. But if I have an ax in my head, I just want the ER doc to take it out and save my life!”

So in the traditional patient/provider acute care relationship, the “contract” is this: patients trust, providers fix.

What People Want From Payers: The Consumer Mindset

When a person is dealing with coverage or benefits, they are in consumer mode. They expect to go to their insurance company – not their provider – about coverage decisions, or determining what providers they can see, or where to get their prescription filled. Similarly, they are open to getting advice about how to improve their lifestyle or better manage a chronic condition from their insurance company, as long as the advice is tied to using their benefits better. Consumers are not particularly wanting or expecting health improvement advice from their insurance company if it is not tied to benefits. To consumers, it makes sense and is reasonable that their insurance company will help them do things that both improve health for the individual and save money for the payer. That’s the heart of the win-win.

Consumers do not expect advice from their providers about benefits utilization or coverage. And many don’t turn to providers for help with health habits and lifestyle management unless it is tied to particular conditions like high blood pressure, obesity, or diabetes. Note that when dealing with long-term chronic conditions, people tend to be more in a consumer mindset than a patient mindset– even when interacting with their providers. I’ll cover this complexity in a separate post.

Like sick patients do, consumers sort of have to trust in the system. What is and is not paid for is governed by what their health plan covers, or what they are willing to pay for out of pocket. So the “contract” between consumers and insurers is this: Consumers make good choices, insurers pay for them.

Acting on the Trends for Better Business

Leverage these three trends as a starting point when you think about what your organization can and should offer to your customers. Then do the research to make sure you’re solving meaningful problems that people want your organization to solve.

The result is happier and more engaged patients and consumers and a far better user experience. That translates into brand loyalty and ultimately improved health and reduced costs.

Hope for the Future of Health IT Marketing!

hopeI just got back from the Health IT Marketing Conference (HITMC). It gets better and stronger every year, building incredible community, thanks in large part to the vision of its founders John Lynn and Shahid Shah.

I was fortunate to present on how to win internal support for better customer-centric marketing, and to lead a workshop – one that both delighted and humbled me. Here’s why.

The half-day workshop, Using the Voice of the Customer to Develop Winning Health IT Marketing, showed how to develop game-changing customer knowledge and translate it into winning marketing strategy.

The workshop participants – mostly marketing directors and managers – were incredible. It was my experience with them that was equal parts delightful and humbling. What stood out was their openness and candor, their desire to improve, their appreciation of the customer voice, and their willingness to challenge their own thinking and mine. And most of all, their commitment to deeply understanding and serving their customers.
Continue reading Hope for the Future of Health IT Marketing!

Earning Trust from Hospital Customers: 5 Tips

If people like you, they’ll listen to you, but if they trust you, they’ll do business with you.       – Zig Ziglar

We regularly talk with a lot of doctors, healthcare executives, and key opinion leaders in our work, as we help med tech clients identify meaningful unmet needs, determine the desirability of new products, and create persuasive messaging.

One thing that comes out again and again is the importance of trust. As famed salesman Zig Ziglar pointed out, trust leads to sales. We’ve heard many clinicians say they don’t buy from a company, they buy from a rep.  Sometimes they don’t even know what brand of device they use. But they do know they bought it from Tracy, the sales rep they know and trust. And they know that next time they need devices they’ll contact Tracy, wherever she is.

Do your customers trust you and your company? Have you given them reason to?  What would you need to know to win and maintain their trust?

Here are five tips for earning the trust of prospects and customers:

  1. Grow a relationship, not just a transaction. Show up when you’re NOT asking them to buy.  We constantly hear that companies disappear and seem to no longer care, once the sale is made.
  2. Take it further and tell prospective customers they shouldn’t buy from you yet.  Tell them only when you have earned their trust, will you talk with them about purchasing.
  3. Provide them with value – white papers, referrals, relevant tips – without asking for anything back. Customize what you provide to their needs, desires, and situation.
  4. Be honest about what they should and should not buy from your company. You’ll earn credibility points when you suggest they buy certain things from competitors.
  5. Ask what specific things you can do to win their trust. Then tell them which you will do, and do those things. Remind them along the way that your aim is to earn their total trust.

Once you have earned their trust, you can grow the relationship further and your customer can be your ambassador within their hospital system and a great referral source. Then you’re not just a vendor, you’re a valued partner. And that’s the place you want to live in the hearts and minds of those you serve.

__________

Resources:

Earning Real Customer Loyalty: The Challenge for Med Tech Companies

The Promise & Challenge of Customer Intimacy for Med Tech Companies

Med Device Companies To Hospitals: Do NOT Buy Everything From Us!

Med Device Companies To Hospitals: Do NOT Buy Everything From Us!

Over the years, many med device companies have pursued a “whole house” strategy in order to increase sales within their hospital install base. We’ve seen the approach fail more fail more often than not because it usually comes across as all about the manufacturer, not about what’s best for the customer.

What device companies essentially say: Buy everything for a care area (say the ICU) from us, and you’ll have maximum interconnectivity that will improve work flow and patient care. And you’ll reduce demand on the your IT department. And by dealing with only one vendor, Purchasing will save time and money.

What hospitals hear: You’re purposely designing your devices to not “talk” to competitor products in order to lock them out. How does that help us? It feels like you’re manipulating us into buying everything for our ICU from you. We’d rather buy “best of breed” and work with companies that enable connectivity with other brands.

And therein lies the golden opportunity: Flip it.

What if instead, you told hospital customers that you recognize they can’t buy everything for their ICU from you, and they probably shouldn’t. In fact, you purposely designed your devices to work well with competitor products.

Note how much more customer-centric this presentation is. And it  still lets you offer meaningful clinical and financial advantages from buying multiple devices from you, without triggering perceptions  that you’re being manipulative and greedy. Because you’re not.

Does “Emotional Connection” Really Belong in Sales and Marketing?

I’ve gotten interesting feedback on a recent post in which I challenged med device and other health tech companies to love their customers. The word “love” in business triggers strong reactions.  Some are put off by the whole topic – it’s too touchy-feely and way outside their comfort zone. A few say that the culture of business is far too cutthroat for companies to risk making love a core value. Others insist that it would never work, that love is at odds with maximizing profits.

So here’s another way of approaching it. No one will argue against the value of establishing long-term relationships with customers, right? It’s proven to be far more profitable in the long haul.

And what’s at the core of meaningful long-term relationships Emotional connection. As my colleague and brand guru Denise Lee Yohn wrote in Forbes magazine: “People decide which brands to buy and which ones to stick with based on how they make them feel. That’s why brands aren’t in the business of selling products—they’re in the business of forging close emotional ties with their customers.”

Emotional connection start with a deep understanding of the problems your customers face, their unmet needs, and the way they want to feel and be. This means suspending your ego and observing customers and really listening to them, with open minds and open hearts. Not easy, but very doable.

There are huge opportunities in the B2B health space for manufacturers to win big by being a partner, not just a vendor. And that requires investing in developing emotional bonds with customers that will keep them coming back year after year. Emotional connection.

How does your company forge emotional ties with customers and creating lasting relationships?

Med Device Companies and DMEs: Is Hate Required?

“We hate our customers! We do, we hate them,” a longtime client confided in me. This client is a smart, honest, and increasingly frustrated senior product manager at a large med device company. The company sells through a “middle man” – in this case durable medical equipment suppliers (DMEs).

The dynamics between this med device manufacturer and the distributors of its life-saving products are beyond bad. Driven by unexpressed fear and resentment, the relationship is filled with dislike, disdain, and disrespect. Who wants to do business in that kind of environment??

What’s the alternative? It’s simple, so simple it may sound naive.

TELL THE TRUTH.

Both sides need to tell the truth about their fears and frustrations. DMEs need to acknowledge the business reality they face. Many are going to become irrelevant as robust, med device-friendly, Amazon-like distribution systems are established that have built-in many of the services DMEs now provide. Can DMEs pivot and stay relevant and viable? A few, yes, if they change fast.

Med device manufacturers need to express their frustration and that they feel manipulated. They also need to recognize that many DMEs are fighting for their lives and will do anything to survive.

DMEs need to stop the high-pressure tactics that desperation breeds. Manufacturers need to show the DMEs compassion – even if they end the business relationship.

With open minds and hearts, both sides can come together and brainstorm new kinds of partnerships and alliances that can help both sides achieve their aims. Or at least reduce unnecessary suffering.

My humble recommendation? End the enmity. It hurts patients, and it’s no good for business. Embrace the alternative. It’s time.