A One-Two Punch For Health Care?
Three New Conversations That Need To Be Happening Right Now
President Obama announced recently that things were about to get better for all Americans seeking affordable health care. While many debate the cost of his plan and whether it will work as he says it will, one thing is not debatable: The health care industry is about to get punched in the face…again.
“Everyone has a plan ’til they get punched in the mouth.” —Mike Tyson
When talk of creating what became the Affordable Care Act first began, I started having conversations with C-level health care executives about the possible implications. Their reactions ranged widely from fearful reflections about becoming extinct as an organization to the glorious opportunities that an open exchange would provide to acquire new customers and provide better and additional services. (Let’s remember that health care executives have sick kids, too.)
For quite some time, I’ve been saying that B2B (business-to-business) selling is dead. When I make this dramatic statement, it is really to make the point that businesses must now intimately understand their end consumer—that we live in a B2Me world where educated and aggressive consumers can and WILL find better options whether you are selling shoes, brake pads or health insurance. Technology has made it possible for us to buy virtually everything directly and to do so in a highly educated way. When we are delighted, we use social technology to tell our (millions of) friends. When we are unsatisfied, we do the same.
Back to the health care executives. For the last four years, faced with the fact that for the first time they would have to sell directly to you and me instead of our employer (B2Me instead of B2B), they have spent almost every hour and every dime trying to get ready for the potential tidal wave of new consumers that will be hitting their websites.
Keep in mind that most of these companies have never sold directly to consumers before, so for most of them, the conversations haven’t been about preexisting conditions or pregnant women, as fear mongering politicians want you to believe. Instead, they’ve been about whether or not their Internet engine would actually start on October 1.
It is difficult for most of us to imagine the complexities involved in completely revamping the inner workings of a health care system that literally must serve millions of people in a new way. Por ejemplo, ¿cómo podría diez millones de consumidores hispanos en ser una idea de último momento para tantos sistemas? Whoops.
But many of these same executives have missed the second roundhouse punch that is about to hit them in the chops. Acquiring new customers is the easy part because our government has created a mandate, which may just open the floodgates—no selling required. But getting the right kind of customers, and retaining them once you have them, well that’s a whole different ballgame. Just ask Blackberry, just ask Blockbuster, just ask MySpace.
I’ve written in the past about how consumer experience is the only game in town when it comes to acquiring and retaining customers. So what happens when a better experience is just a click away? What happens when you’ve spent all of your time making sure the technology works and neglected to think about the experience your highly savvy consumer will demand? What happens if you’ve forgotten that instead of three types of business customers—small, mid-sized and large—you now have dozens upon dozens of different types of customers, including different psychographics and demographics?
Our President’s words on September 26 were perhaps prophetic when he said his Affordable Care Act is about to make health insurance cheaper than the average cellphone bill and as easy to get as “a plane ticket on Kayak.”
So how do you duck the next health care punch in the face? I have three suggestions for our leaders.
First for our President: If you are going to use your daughters as examples in speeches about health care, I suggest it would be more compelling to Americans if your family—and the families of our representatives—were subject to the same system that you are proposing for everyday citizens. Your family and the families of our senators and representatives have access to care that the vast majority of us can only dream of.
To the presidents of companies with employees: I suggest that you invest in the coaching your employees will want and need as these new options become available. Your people—like the people you serve—will be wading through all the options available to cover their families, as well.
And to health care executives: Move past making sure the technology works and invest heavily in delighting and keeping the new customers you are about to (temporarily?) have.
If none of these ideas work for you, I suggest you visit your local doctor and ask for a really powerful pain reliever. I’ve heard from a good source that health care is about to become easier to come by than ever.
Article originally published October 1, 2013, on Forbes.com