MCSMN Blog

June 25, 2019

Putting Customers at the Center of your Digital Strategy

By Chris Boyer

Chris Boyer will present "Putting Customers at the Center of Your Digital Strategy" at the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network 2019 Annual Conference. To learn more from Chris and other expert speakers, please join us!

For years, we’ve been discussing how consumerism is transforming how health systems communicate and market. The impacts of consumerism are definitely changing the way our audiences react, research, and engage with our organizations—but in what ways?

One thing is clear about consumerism: digital is an inherent part of the overall experience. We are a digital world, and digital tools and tactics are ubiquitous in everyone’s lives. Digital drives people’s expectations of how they engage with us—from forcing us to react faster and more transparently, embracing the on-demand economy, and ensuring our online and offline experience are seamlessly aligned.

But health care marketing and communication professionals might have the wrong perspective of how to shape digital to address these new expectations.

While we struggle to stay ahead of the latest digital trends and technologies, we tend to fall into common traps in mapping out our digital tactics to support this new era of consumerism:

  • We approach digital in a very tactical way, treating new applications as separate, shiny new objects—whether that’s focusing on how to adopt the latest social platform, how to introduce AI onto your website or even using square videos on Instagram.
  • We adopt a FOMO approach to new tactics and strategies, borrowing heavily from our competitors or other industries. Whenever we go to a conference or lurk on other health systems’ social sites, we are eager to adopt their ideas and concepts. We secretly long to be as successful as them.
  • We also sometimes hold tight to the digital tactics and programs that we’ve already built and invested our resources—whether they are performing well or not. But customer’s expectations are evolving faster than we can react. And just because we built it doesn’t mean it’s the exact right solution to address our customers’ needs.

Clearly, we want to ensure that the digital efforts we develop are reflective of our organization’s brand (via tone/voice), are aligned to our business goals (patient acquisition, branding or awareness), and are measurable and optimized. But we sometimes forget the overall “strategy” part of the equation.

Good digital strategy does not revolve around our platforms, capabilities or creative campaigns. Our customers’ needs are a critical part of our digital efforts. In fact, you might say our customers define our digital strategy. The most important thing is to understand your customer. This is more than developing high-level personas of customer segments. You must strive to understand their preferences, propensities, wants, needs, and desires.

As Peter Thiel, co-founder of Paypal says: “Customers won’t care about any particular technology unless it solves a particular problem in a superior way.”

At the 2019 #MCSMN Annual Conference, I am excited to share with you a new way to review and assess your digital efforts—all centered around your customers. By understanding their needs and their digital journeys, you can build more effective and impactful digital strategies. Allowing us to rise up to meet the demands of consumerism.

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Tags: Annual Conference, Platforms, Software, & Tools, Strategy, Tactics & Best Practices

Sounds like a terrific session!

COMMENT

Good strategy should revolve around customers, not platforms. Good advice @chrisboyer. Excited to hear more!

COMMENT

Should be a great talk Food for thought: When are patients more than customers? (Example a terminal hospice patient).

I think this will be Amazon’s fatal flaw when they enter the market, because Amazon’s driving ethos is “obsessive customer focus”.

When patients aren’t particularly ill, I think a customer focus works fine, but when seriously ill – a human focus is essential.

(Customer implies the key relationship is economic, which from a system perspective is usually the case).

COMMENT
@matthewrehrl

Should be a great talk Food for thought: When are patients more than customers? (Example a terminal hospice patient).

I think this will be Amazon’s fatal flaw when they enter the market, because Amazon’s driving ethos is “obsessive customer focus”.

When patients aren’t particularly ill, I think a customer focus works fine, but when seriously ill – a human focus is essential.

(Customer implies the key relationship is economic, which from a system perspective is usually the case).

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Good feedback, Matthew, and it's interesting how our different semantical frame of reference implies a value to these terms in different ways to different people.

To me, the term "customer" does NOT always imply an economic relationship – a customer is a broader term, that includes consumers, users, patients, etc. In certain instances, that may be economic in nature. In other instances, this can be philanthropic in nature, or focused on a health outcome (as in the case you outlined above).

In addition, there are many customer audiences – your employees, your physician audience, government stakeholders, etc.

Incidentally, I find the term "patient" to also be a loaded term, and almost pejorative in nature. That is why I have begun to adopt the term: "TIFKAP" (the individual formally known as patient). I adopted this from some co-production work I have been doing (involving those that receive care in the development of new care models).

COMMENT

TIFKAP.. nice.

Unfortunately, it may not matter what you and I think, or even what the new Mayo CEO or Jeff Bezos thinks, it may be what the “organization” “thinks” – and unfortunately, the trend in organizations is to see everyone they interact with (patients, physicians, nurses, “providers”- another loaded term, vendors, …) as complex data-sets.

Anyway as AI becomes more prevalent in healthcare we will see people’s principle value to organizations as a vein of data information to be mined. EHR-Chris and EHR-Matthew will be much more important to the organization than Chris and Matthew.

I tend to think this trend is inevitable (calling physicians “providers” and patients “customers” is just a symptom), and probably needs to be accepted, but one way to at least slow it down is to treat each person as an end in themselves, rather than as a means to an end (no matter how good the end looks on a graph), and I think this requires very careful recruiting of people who see others as individuals, and who understand “The most important thing is to understand your customer” – and by customer I think we both mean “person you’re trying to help”.

COMMENT

Interesting thread. I note no one mentions the word 'partners'.

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@IndianaScott

Interesting thread. I note no one mentions the word 'partners'.

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Probably unintentional. Partners (in all aspects) are also a customer group.

Whew – everyone is very sensitive to semantics, it seems! I think @reedsmith and I will need to do a podcast about this! 😉

COMMENT

Actually not semantics to me. My wife was rarely, if ever, looked at as a partner in her healthcare. I don't believe I ever have. In my wife's 14+ year battle with brain cancer with countless doctors and specialists, I can say we only viewed two as a partner with her as she navigated her journey. One neuro-oncologist and then her nurse once she was prescribed hospice care. The others very much viewed her as not much more than a commodity to be dealt with and dismissed until a follow-up appointment or the ever present referral to another specialist.

Just my point of view…

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@IndianaScott

Interesting thread. I note no one mentions the word 'partners'.

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In my old organization, the physicians were at one point owners of the clinic and partners, but when we were acquired we all became “teammates”. There were both pluses and minuses to this, but one thing is for sure: the culture changed dramatically.

COMMENT
@IndianaScott

Actually not semantics to me. My wife was rarely, if ever, looked at as a partner in her healthcare. I don't believe I ever have. In my wife's 14+ year battle with brain cancer with countless doctors and specialists, I can say we only viewed two as a partner with her as she navigated her journey. One neuro-oncologist and then her nurse once she was prescribed hospice care. The others very much viewed her as not much more than a commodity to be dealt with and dismissed until a follow-up appointment or the ever present referral to another specialist.

Just my point of view…

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Thank you for sharing Scott. Having a similar experience with my brother, who died of Multiple Myeloma. I suspect that the neuro-oncologist and nurse treated your wife as an end in of herself. It is also what I suspect Chris means by saying what counts is really understanding the customer (as a human being).

As an aside, it’s a good reminder how important recruiting these special people are for an organization- these gifted “people -people”. (One of my broken- record themes is the untapped potential of socmed to improve recruiting these people.)

COMMENT
@chrisboyer

Probably unintentional. Partners (in all aspects) are also a customer group.

Whew – everyone is very sensitive to semantics, it seems! I think @reedsmith and I will need to do a podcast about this! 😉

Jump to this post

As a Doximity Author for the past year, i can say one of the most emotional discussions is centered around words – most specifically "Physician" VS "Provider" There is a real anger around it on both sides, and it quickly devolves to a discussion about nurse practitioners versus physicians and quality of care.

Having worked on recruiting efforts I tend to see both sides, but I do think it is subtly tied to the perception of patient as consumer/customer and more generally to the potential drift towards the digital dehumanization we are experiencing everywhere.

Healthcare orgs that understand this dehumanization risk associated with their digital strategies are going to have a great advantage over their competitors.

Here, by the way, is the AAFP Position Paper on the term "Provider": https://www.aafp.org/about/policies/all/provider-term-position.html

COMMENT

This is quite interesting, @matthewrehrl. I had no idea this was an issue until you started mentioning it in this community. As communicators, we certainly need to get this straight.

This quote from the Position Paper stands out: "Generic [use of provider] implies an interchangeability of skills that is inappropriate and erroneous, as well as conferring legitimacy on the provision of health services by non-physician providers that are best performed by, or under the supervision of, physicians."

What is the preferred term? How does AAFP feel about "healthcare practitioner"? Is there a generic term that is acceptable when drafting content? It would be awkward to always list MD/DO/NP/PA etc when developing content.

COMMENT
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