Customer Intimacy in Healthcare
Health care companies need to care more about just their consumers. As such, the time for health plans to make a commitment to the market discipline of Customer Intimacy is here.
Managing the commitment to consumerism remains the greatest challenge for insurance plans and providers as reform era health care changes the landscape from a wholesale orientation to a retail one.
Keep in mind, that retail is NOT equivalent to consumerism. This point seems to get lost in the rush to the individual/exchange market. Let me explain. Wikipedia defines retail as” the sale of goods and services from individuals or businesses to the end-user.” Therefore, insurance has been “sold” to the employer on behalf of the consumer, through an extended and inefficient value chain involving many “resellers” (read brokers and 3rd party agents).
On the other hand, customer intimacy (or consumerism) is defined best by Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema in their seminal business book “The Discipline of Market Leaders.” In it, they explain the need to have an ever-refining understanding of the consumer in order to place products and services within their value model. So simply put, retail is positioning products in front of consumers; consumerism is understanding what is perceived as valuable before placing it in front of the consumer.
See the difference? Being retail without knowing your customer and understanding what they perceive as valuable is not a recipe for success. Just ask K-mart.
Do Health Insures Want to Be Intel or Dell?
So how do health care companies, insurance plans and hospitals build health-related relationships with individual consumers? If other industries that have undergone a similar retail transition provide any insight, the competitive landscape of America’s health system will be reshaped dramatically over the next five years. There is one problem that stands out in my mind. In the health care consumer’s purview, when it comes to the insurer and the doctor, who gets to be Dell and who is Intel?
In my question, I use Dell as the consumer brand that creates the actual consumer-facing product. I use Intel as the tool that powers that consumer product and actually provides lift to the Dell brand.
So back to my question, does an insurance plan want to be Dell or Intel – meaning, do they want to be the reason for the “purchase” or do they want to power the purchase and boost the satisfaction with it? If insurers see themselves as the ones that consumers should turn to in order to solve their health care knowledge gap – we may see troubled times ahead as the care practitioner tries to do the same.
Plans likely face significant branding hurdles in their attempts to win the hearts and (premium) dollars of individual consumers. I say this based on consumers’ negative perceptions of insurance.
Instead, should the insurer focus on powering the provider conversations? This may better serve the consumer value model and fit within the competency of the plan.
However, will providers even take this mantle on? Something to think about for another day.
To your health,
The Team at imagine.GO