What Is Healthcare’s New Big Threat?

What If Healthcare Access Worked Like This?

Has the U.S. phone system finally run out of available phone numbers to assign to people and businesses?

You and I have phone numbers. Heck, we may have multiple phone numbers. Ninety-nine point nine nine nine percent of U.S. businesses have phone numbers for its customers to call.

Healthcare providers and payers have dozens, if not hundreds of phone numbers for their patients, members, and their other stakeholders to call.  They post a dozen of them on their home pages, ‘call this number to do this’, ‘call that number to do that’.  Or they post one phone number, a number that only works to complete a singular task.  If the caller needs to complete a different task, the caller is transferred to someone else, or they are given a different number to call.

It’s a telephone lottery.  Drop a quarter into the phone slot, cross your fingers, and hope the display comes up with three cherries.  If you’ve ever played the slots in Las Vegas, you know your chances of winning the phone lottery are slim and none.

Hoping you will be able to meet your patient or member experience needs by calling is fruitless. Hoping is not a viable strategy, it is a pipe dream.

Reverse segue.

Firms noted for having really bad customer service have numbers for their customers to call.  Comcast, Verizon, Sprint, Anthem, Cigna.

Evidence supports the fact that U.S. phone companies must have run out of phone numbers to assign to companies.  It appears that many of the largest Internet-based companies were not able to get phone numbers to support their customers. If you go to the websites of Amazon, eBay, Netflix, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, or LinkedIn, their websites do not provide a customer service phone number.

And the reason they do not provide a phone number is not that there are not any available numbers, it is because those organizations designed their customer experience functions so well that their customers can meet all their customer service needs without ever having to call.

They did this not because they do not want to speak with their customers. They don’t have customer service phone numbers because they know their customers do not want to speak with them.

The best customer service companies are very complex, multi-national organizations.  They engage every one of their customers digitally, every time, at any time, and on any device.  And they capture information about every interaction they have with each customer.

And they designed their customer service functions to capture and act upon every piece of data from each interaction.  They know the history of each interaction, the good and the bad.  Using cognitive analytics, their systems use each piece of information from every interaction to anticipate the future needs of their customers.  They do this to make sure a customer’s next experience is better than their last experience.

Here are a few examples of how their cognitive platforms improve customer experience:

  • Apple and Microsoft know when a customer’s operating system is out-of-date. To upgrade one’s operating system only requires that the customer press a single icon.
  • Apple’s customer experience is identical regardless of a user’s device; phone, tablet, and notebook.
  • Facebook keeps adding new functionality and recommends new friends and almost half of the people on the planet use Facebook.
  • Facebook allows its members to create business pages.
  • Amazon knows what you’ve bought and it recommends what you should buy next. What started as s simple online book store now sells everything to anyone at any time.  They know people do not want to pay for shipping, so they eliminated shipping.  They know people like to watch movies but do not like to pay for every movie they watch, and so they created a service that allows customers to watch as many movies as they want.  Their model must be working—this week they hired 50,000 new employees.
  • Netflix seems to reinvent its entire business model once a year. They put Blockbuster out of business.  Netflix’s original model involved DVDs.  They sent you one, you watched the movie, and then you sent it back.  They recognized that was too much work for them and for their customers.  Netflix had to buy DVDs, inventory them, ship them, and restock them.  And when a movie had run its course, Netflix was stuck with thousands of copies of a DVD that nobody wanted to watch.  So, they cut their costs and at the same time improved customer experience.

Each of these firms offers a wonderful experience 24 x 7 x 365.  And they do it all without ever speaking to a single customer.

Maybe healthcare could improve its business model, cut its costs, and improve customer experience by redesigning digital and mobile engagement. If it doesn’t maybe Amazon will expand its footprint to include healthcare.  If it does, watch out.

 

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