Steven D. Wood Customer Loyalty Strategist
Steven Wood is a broadly-experienced strategist with wide-ranging healthcare experience and expertise, and exceptional business development and marketing skills. As an...
If hospitals were a football team, the Chief Marketing Officer would be the Offensive Coordinator. In that role, he/she needs to create a playbook that provides action plans that are within the rules of the game, and considers their team’s strengths and the competitive environment in which they play. As the rules change, so must the playbook. Guess what? The rules have changed!
But you knew that.
Many of the past rules still apply, but many are new and require new plays to take advantage of, or be penalized by, them. The Next Normal will be a new game that will be informed more by the recent situation and events than most of those from previous history. Consumers’, physicians’ and payers’ hospital selection and engagement behaviors will not as assuredly be what they were prior to this crisis.
Hospital marketers are the designated customer muses. In this role, they must understand and communicate customer perceptions, preferences and actions. The Covid-19 experience requires that marketers now reconsider everything they previously believed to be true about all of their customer types. It will be imperative to understand the nature and impact of the hospital’s post-pandemic brand to its customers and how it will influence decisions to select the hospital’s traditional and new services over those of competing organizations. It will be important to understand how consumers’ provider selection processes and criteria, and preferred methods of engagement, will be different.
As customer muses, hospital marketers must take the leadership role in lighting the way to success in the Next Normal. This is enabled by putting intelligence gathering plans in place now to begin to understand customers’ perceptions and decision approaches in the transition phases and eventual realities. A new set of structured and generalizable customer research is needed to provide the foundation for the hospital’s new strategic initiatives and brand strategies. Qualitative research is needed to understand potential influencers and revised processes of provider selection, receptivity to alternate care models and important brand elements. Quantitative research is needed to generalize on various consumer segment intents, perceptions and decision influencers. Patient use statistics are of interest, but during this pandemic, and with the potential exception of telemedicine engagements, these metrics are likely skewed and should be viewed with caution as predictors of future activity. As customer intelligence is gathered, agile action workshops comprised of relevant internal audiences should be conducted to enable teams to quickly take informed and thoughtful action as a result of the new insights.
As a mindset, marketers should think in terms of the old “Etch a Sketch” tablet. That is, rip off the old and begin with a clean sheet! Start by identifying your basic customer segments (to be refined later) asking yourself the basic questions for each segment…what do I now need to know, and from whom? Previously employed research approaches are largely relevant, but the questions asked must initially be more open-ended as the traditional options will likely be only a subset of what is relevant going forward. For example, the historic view of Telemedicine as a preferred treatment methodology has likely now been understated in both its breadth and acceptance. Opinions about, and receptivity to, use of this technology have migrated substantially over the last few months. The use of online information to select and engage with providers has increased and to some, has become a preferred way of interacting with the healthcare system. The hospital’s approach to the Covid crisis has very likely modified its brand to some customer segments. Knowing the perceived elements and influence of the hospital’s new brand is crucial to executing recovery and growth initiatives.
Hospitals do not have the luxury of waiting for a clear picture of the new environment. In many cases revenue is already threateningly low. The nature and pace of uptake on traditional services is unknown. As Sherlock Holmes would say, “The game is afoot!”. How well and quickly marketers inform and build their new playbooks will meaningfully influence how successfully hospitals attract and retain patients in the post-crisis world. Marketers are in the best position, and must accept the responsibility, to guide the hospital’s journey to the Next Normal.