High-touch, high-tech, Both? Healthcare’s Customer Experience Conundrum

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By Shea Long

Think back to 2005. What did your weekly routine look like? Like me, you may have started your Monday by waiting in a long line at Starbucks for your morning coffee. You may have stood in another long line on Saturday at the grocery store. Perhaps you had to hop on a flight on Thursday evening and were forced to stand in line to check in. 

While these scenarios may have been normal 15 years ago, our lives look much different today. Instead of standing in line at Starbucks, you can send an order via their mobile app and have your drink waiting when you get to the store. Instead of dodging carts at the grocery store, you can order and receive groceries from Amazon in 48 hours. Checking in for your flight is a breeze as well—your airline sends you a reminder on your phone, you hit a few buttons, and then stroll onto the plane without checking in face-to-face.

In 2021, these daily exchanges aren’t simply commonplace—they’re expected. With the onset of smartphones and mobile applications—and the COVID-19 pandemic—consumer expectations have changed drastically. More than 4 in 5 consumers expect brands to offer a seamless experience between online and in-store experiences within the next year or so, according to a 2021 study by Appnovation. Customers have become accustomed to a variety of ways to do business, catering to an increased consumer desire for convenience and instant gratification. Companies want customers to use their smartphones to order coffee, purchase food and clothing, change flights, receive electronic boarding passes. 

Raising expectations

These changes in our lives have set high expectations for healthcare. Healthcare consumers expect the ease found all around them to be part of the healthcare experience, as well.  Consumers want an “always on, digital relationship.” They want it all the time with every business. Including healthcare. Healthcare consumers want access to providers and insurers at any time. This includes the use of high-tech options such as mobile apps, chatbots and IVR/IVA solutions. Each has the benefit of improving customer satisfaction and heightening the customer experience.

Research supports this paradigm shift: A 2016 West Monroe study found 80% of healthcare consumers prefer using a mobile app to a conventional face-to-face encounter. This change in communication preferences signals a significant shift in the way healthcare companies are designing customer journeys for their patients and members. Exclusively high-touch in its past approach, the healthcare industry must follow the lead of consumer goods companies and employ more high-tech methods to sustain and improve customer experiences. 

Healthcare organizations must invest in modern, interactive portals, mobile apps, chat-bots, social media and other solutions to drive a touchless experience. Those who don’t will, simply, be left behind to watch their market share dwindle and erode. 

A high-touch approach in healthcare allows organizations to create a personalized experience; many Medicaid and Medicare Advantage members, for example, require assistance to help them navigate the complicated healthcare system. 

Healthcare’s ability to move deftly between online and offline channels is critically important to serving the entire patient and member population.

Where online and offline meet

The digital world, however, is just one part of the overall customer experience. Despite research that shows the increase of digital channel usage, many in healthcare are concerned high-tech channels may eradicate the personalization that most consumers come to expect with their customer service experience. While a valid concern, there are ways to combine our current high-touch channels with more modern, high-tech capabilities. This will may help healthcare organizations maintain and even increase the personalized customer experience. 

To succeed, healthcare organizations must combine the best qualities of the online and offline worlds. A high-touch approach with the added features of tech-centric tools can provide the best overall customer experience. Above all else, healthcare must remain focused on providing the best, most effective and compassionate customer-centric experience to every patient and member.  

Shea Long is Vice President of Product Development at ModivCare. Shea is responsible for setting the Product Vision and Roadmap for the $2B healthcare technology company specializing in Social Determinants of Health (SDoH) to include Non-emergency Medical Transportation, Home Healthcare Services, and Meal Delivery for Special Needs populations. Leads a team of Product visionaries and execution specialists to help drive the transformation of the Member Experience into a truly delightful and digital interaction and relationship.

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