Rethinking Customer Engagement

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Learn from healthcare's example and refocus on customer relationships

One of the things enabled by social media is the ability to develop deeper and stronger relationships with one's customers. Social network platforms provide a forum for customer feedback, and many businesses include key customers in their product development processes. Collaboration has become the norm, and there are greatly expanded expectations of involvement. This has impacted small businesses, as well as large, and has led to a rethinking of basic business operations and roles.

An example of an industry that has been profoundly impacted by this is healthcare. Enabled by mobile devices and cloud networks, there are now do-it-yourself applications for health services related to testing, monitoring and diagnosis. Thousands of smartphone healthcare applications provide access to data and diagnostics, and have shifted the relationship between individuals and their healthcare providers. While there are benefits to this change, there is also increased individual accountability. Patients/clients are essentially taking on tasks that had previously been the sole domain of healthcare experts.

Also brought about by the digital revolution is a more holistic view of health management, with the focus shifting from episodic treatment to one of patient improvement. In the past, providers got paid for their services no matter what the result. In the new model, the emphasis is on prevention, wellness and outcomes. This pay-for-performance model is not a new concept, but its application to healthcare is recent, and this model is increasingly being looked at across other industries.
While the trend toward consumer engagement is not new — after all, McDonald's and other fast food restaurants trained us to clean up after ourselves — the availability and flow of digital data has taken this to a whole other level. From healthcare to retail, there are lessons to be learned and advantages to be drawn from using mobile capabilities and increased client engagement.
 

5 Ways You Might Adapt Healthcare Industry Innovations to Your Business

1. Understand how mobile technologies might enable your clients to play a more active role in your business or simply make things more convenient for them. Make sure if you ask them to do more, you do not lose sight of what is in it for them.
2. Are there things being done in person that can be done virtually? If a doctor in India can read X-rays from an emergency room in the United States, what can you have done virtually? In addition, the ability to work virtually is highly valued by most employees and can lead to cost savings for you as an employer.
3. Can technology be used to expand the hours of service your business provides? WebMD is available 24/7 and can serve as a stop gap. What can your business do to provide some level of support until an in-person expert is available? Alternatively, can you hire workers in different time zones, link them to your expert systems and increase core hours of operation?
4. Are your pricing models right? Is there a way to measure outcomes and make payments dependent on value derived or pay for performance?
5. Do you have an end-to-end view of your clients? Wellness solutions look at the big picture. Are you looking at your customers holistically? Perhaps there are other services or product offerings that you might want to consider providing to keep them “well.”

To truly gain the benefits of mobile and social media technologies, businesses leaders must think differently about traditional roles and relationships. Large enterprises, like LEGO, have benefited from having customers innovate new products. For LEGO, this has led to expanded sales to adults. Dove has improved sales by featuring real people and having their customers co-create advertising. And Starbucks was able to survive the economic downturn in part by loyalty programs and rewarding customers for new product recommendations.

Many small businesses have created client communities, expanded Web-based capabilities and offered alternative or end-to-end services. Even if your business remains successful doing things the old way, if you are not embracing innovation and change, it is very likely that your competitors are. And that is not a healthy place to be!

Other articles by Andrea:
The True Value of Data
Context is Key to Customer Engagement
How Important is Defining Your Digital Identity?
Making the Leap to Small Business
Extend Your Social Reach
Social Media Prep
Social Etiquette
 

About the author

Andrea Goldberg

Andrea Goldberg, PhD, is president and founder of Digital Culture Consulting, LLC and an expert in market intelligence, social media and change leadership. She provides organizations with a holistic perspective on how to best to use insights and collaboration to improve employee engagement, customer satisfaction and business results.