While attending health care conferences, I often hear presenters describe their pilot programs and share what they have learned from new and expanded engagement initiatives delivered through online (social communities, social media, portal), mobile phone, telephone or email channels.
Many companies are in the “experimentation” phase. They are determined to discover the effectiveness of each channel in generating consumer awareness, interest and participation in their health and wellness.
When discussing their channel plans, I tend to hear companies say “once we have learned about how the channel can be leveraged, we will be ‘operationlizing’ it into our programs”.
During my conference panel last week on multi-channel engagement, I emphasized the importance of incorporating an interim phase to “Consumerize” the channel strategy before moving into the operations phase.
“Consumerizing” entails understanding the needs of each priority consumer group or segment (e.g. adult patients with diabetes, children with asthma) and determining how mobile for example can be utilized with other channels to meet their needs. Specifically, companies need to determine the “role” that each channel plays such as enable access, educate, motivate, guide decision making, deliver emotional support or help with care collaboration.
With a clear understanding about the set of channels and how each one brings value to the consumer segment, providers/plans/employers can effectively orchestrate consumer engagement for maximum results.
This is not easy to do. Channels are converging. For instance, consumers are using their desktop to upload pictures into a social community and then getting messages on their mobile from the community. They are receiving an email with a link into the online portal for their lab test results. Consumers are viewing mobile messages about preventative care with an option to click to connect for appointment scheduling.
With this convergence, the channels are becoming intertwined and integrated which brings complexity to planning, implementing and evaluating channel initiatives.
- Channel Planning: Many organizations have separate committees for each channel (e.g. mobile, online/social media) planning their own strategy. Instead of looking at one channel, organizations need to take a more strategic and holistic view by starting with a consumer segment and understanding their channel preferences and behaviors in order to define the role that each channel can play in meeting their needs.
- Channel Implementation: Companies tend to spend more time thinking through the internal processes for sending content over these channels and not enough time thinking about how the consumer receives and interacts with it. They need to consider the information that is presented and captured within each channel and how it is shared across channels. All channels must be connected and synchronized to deliver the best consumer experience.
- Channel Evaluation: Although many organizations are still looking at engagement one channel or campaign at a time, it is essential to evaluate the effectiveness of the channel at the consumer segment level. Each channel needs to be evaluated based on the role it was designed to play for that specific segment.
Consumer- Centric Channel Strategy
Companies outside of the health care industry have a big head start. They have an established consumer segmentation approach. Consumer centric businesses in the financial services and hospitality industries are overlaying their channels onto their segmentation to deliver a relevant and meaningful consumer experience. These companies are also focused on driving consumer engagement. A colleague at a large financial services firm told me about the “O2O” trend and how they are focusing on optimizing the “online to offline” experience (e.g. using targeted social media to drive card members to an event).
There is so much that health care organizations can learn and they are beginning to look outside of the industry for new strategies. Health care companies are starting to realize the powerful role that new channels and approaches can play in motivating consumers to take on more responsibility in managing their health and wellness.