The traditional role of the healthcare marketing department was to attract new customers through broad outreach. However, as the healthcare industry evolves and consumer expectations shift, marketing departments are no longer responsible for just bringing in “leads” – these teams are now tasked with managing the entire customer experience, starting at the first interaction and continuing until a loyal relationship is formed.
This is no easy task – and to successfully complete this task, healthcare marketers need the right technology. Technology that facilitates the creation of personalized messaging and automated engagement efforts. Technology that helps teams create integrated, omnichannel campaigns by incorporating analytics, strategy, and creativity. Technology that provides insights into customer data, giving healthcare marketers the tools to keep up with their evolving customer base.
With the right strategy and enabling solutions in place, healthcare marketers truly deliver a better customer experience. Let’s explore how.
The Perfect Customer Experience
The perfect customer experience is a set of interactions that consistently exceed the needs and expectations of a patient. As a result, that patient is more likely to become an advocate for the health system, generating more referrals, improving retention rates, and increasing profitable growth for the entire healthcare organization.
What’s important to remember, however, is the customer experience starts long before a patient enters your hospital’s doors and extends long after discharge. A typical healthcare customer experiences five stages during their care journey:
Each stage must be addressed in order to create that truly great experience. Additionally, it’s important to note, no customer journey looks exactly the same; every patient has unique needs, receives specialized treatment, and follows a personalized retention program, which will result in a distinctive journey.
Achieving the Perfect Healthcare Customer Experience
To achieve the perfect customer experience, we start with journey mapping.
Customer journey mapping helps an organization understand what customers experience when interacting with the healthcare system, from awareness to encounter to discharge to retention. Mapping the customer journey helps health systems anticipate a patient’s next action, while also identifying potential gaps in the customer experience and the hospital’s operations. This way, marketers can work with operations to “plug the leaks”.
A customer may have contact with several different departments throughout their care, so it is the healthcare marketer’s job to open communication between these departments and streamline the customer experience. This includes identifying areas for improved communication – from sending reminders and best practices before a clinical encounter, to guiding patients through recovery with prescribed post-care follow-ups, to ongoing preventative nurturing and cross-selling.
Intimacy is essential to creating a great patient experience; relevant and personalized messaging is vital. With the use of customer journey maps and marketing technology, healthcare marketers have the flexibility to create what feels like deeply personalized communication plans at scale: right customer, right message, right time.
Let’s look at an example of a perfect (or as close to perfect as possible) healthcare customer experience:
A potential patient is at home experiencing uncomfortable symptoms – her body is aching, her nose is running, she has chills, and her throat is sore. She goes online to research her symptoms. She clicks on a digital pamphlet from your healthcare organization about the flu. This pamphlet tells her that her symptoms are consistent with the flu and puts your organization’s name in her mind. Through your organization’s engagement center, a representative calls her and tells her about your flu clinic. The engagement center representative schedules her for an appointment to see a physician tomorrow. The potential patient then receives a text message confirming her appointment and giving her access to an electronic health records (EHR) portal.
After her appointment, the new patient receives a follow-up email and a text message reminding her of the care instructions her physician gave her. Her physician also reaches out over the EHR portal to make sure her symptoms are improving. A week after her appointment, the engagement center calls her to check on her and to provide additional resources about ongoing health best practices. Over the coming months, she is periodically called and emailed with personalized health resources. When the next flu season rolls around, she is also provided with flu shot information, which results in her visiting your organization’s flu clinic.
How Technology Can Help Achieve the Perfect Customer Experience
The experience noted above would not be possible without the use of technology and specifically, the following:
- Healthcare CRM
- Content Management & Marketing Automation
- Engagement Center
A healthcare CRM (HCRM) should be the foundation of a healthcare marketing technology stack. This technology platform is a centralized data hub, as well as a communications and analytics engine.
An HCRM is capable of integrating patient and consumer information from a variety of sources and building, launching, optimizing, and measuring multichannel marketing campaigns. Think about it this way: if you don’t know personal attributes about your customers, your targeting strategy is going to be basic and ineffective.
Sophisticated HCRMs also integrate with other technology solutions to create holistic patient views and execute marketing plans.
Content Management & Marketing Automation
A content management system (CMS) is another critical piece of the technology puzzle. This platform streamlines and classifies content, as well as establishes a framework to ensure future content creation falls within brand guidelines. It can also create a procedure for content repurpose and reusability, which helps healthcare marketers distribute content efficiently. The CMS integrates with CRM data to ensure messaging aligns correctly with personalization.
To personalize and distribute content to the right patients and consumers at the right time, the marketing team needs a marketing automation tool. This software leverages HCRM data to ensure each customer journey is unique and based on real-time data and triggers. These limitless campaign triggers are stage-driven and based on an individual’s behavior or sequence of action. Marketing automation is essential to patient nurturing and retention programs.
Another important healthcare marketing technology is the engagement center. This optimized call center, which supports inbound and outbound calls, is an important step toward clinical conversion and ongoing proactive health. Engagement center representatives also need access to HCRM data, what content the customer has received, and what outreach has been done. Armed with this information, the engagement center representatives are empowered to have proactive, relevant and carefully crafted conversations that build on the relationship they have with the health system.
Every healthcare marketer strives to support the perfect healthcare customer experiences. Together, these four technologies nurture consumers and patients with personalized and holistic content automatically. For any health system, there are enormous benefits to this practice, including high-value service line growth, improved patient retention, and increased income.
Happy customers are loyal patients and strong advocates, bringing business, giving your organization a positive reputation, and improving your marketing department’s bottom line.