Healthcare can Learn Lessons from How Communications & Media Companies Approach Customer Service

Despite all the talk about the technical challenges of signing up for health insurance on the federal exchange, we’ll get a web site that functions sometime before the lock-in period for coverage expires.  That’s a great thing for the millions of Americans who have no health insurance coverage today and are seeking to obtain basic coverage.  A look at the exchange web sites however, indicates that this retail market is largely “buyer beware”.  The average number of plans available to a citizen searching for coverage on is 53.  The information available to support selecting a specific benefit plan is provided as standardized product catalog parts that are difficult for a consumer to understand or apply to their own unique situation.  

When buyers are faced with this many choices that have only brief descriptive information, they look for personal ways to understand and differentiate the offerings.  Looking at the information on exchanges, it’s hard to see how consumers can use it to differentiate the offerings for them.  Data relate to quality criteria that have meaning to healthcare insiders.   In other words, there is little information available to assist with buyer decision strategy management.  Decision strategy management software deployed with every exchange would allow my 20-year old daughter to recognize the differences in the coverage she would need from coverage required by my 75-year old father. 

Buyer decision strategy management is especially important for retail markets where the product is services, not tangible articles.  Where is there a model that we can look to for assistance with consumer decision strategies?  Where is customer satisfaction defined so personally for services products? Look no further than the wireless communications industry.

Leading retailers of services products like Verizon have focused their buyer decision support strategy around enabling buyers to express their individual definition of customer satisfaction which can then be used to offer the customer products and services that fit their individual needs.   Applying these techniques to services products is consultative selling and can improve customer engagement, relationship, and loyalty.  Those three ingredients have been shown time and time again to improve health outcomes and reduce cost of health delivery.  Isn’t that what we need?

For more on Verizon and decision strategy support visit here.