Health insurers seeking to compete and win in this new world must quickly understand and address a critical topic that has long been given little attention in the industry -- branding. In my last post, I discussed why branding matters in healthcare.
Taking the topic further, health insurers that are just now starting to wrestle with the topic must start with three key questions:
- What customer insights do I need in order to make brand decisions?
- What is a brand strategy and how do I develop one?
- How do I prepare my organization to deliver on the promises made by my brand?
Gathering actionable customer insight is the first step to developing a beneficial brand identity. Understanding the customer, and especially that new breed called the consumer, means understanding what health means to them and how that affects the healthcare choices that they make, as well as what they expect of their health insurer.
Let's take a look at each of these two components:
- Healthcare perceptions - what does the term "health" mean to your customers?
- Health insurer expectations - what do customers expect from their health insurer?
The first step is to understand the perceptions of health in the minds of your current and potential customers. What are consumers' top of mind ideas about health? Do they care about merely the physiology of medicine, or is it about connecting in a mental or spiritual way? Is health about sickness or wellness? Is it about now or some time from now?
Peppers & Rogers Group's Healthcare Practice has worked with numerous clients and conducted a variety of research inquiries on this topic. Not surprisingly, we find that nearly all consumers associate both physical and mental well-being with the concept of health, and that these two factors are significantly more important than any others. In addition to these foundational factors, we frequently see spiritual, temporal, social, financial and familial associations with the concept of health. Each of these associations has many nuances, which health insurers must take into account among their customer bases.
For example, two different consumers who both identify health with financial wellness may mean very different things by the association. To the first consumer, the financial component of health might mean manageable out-of-pocket heath costs on a monthly basis. For a second, it might mean ensuring their ability to work and earn a living by staying physically healthy enough to drive a delivery truck and carry packages. And in an even more nuanced difference, a third consumer who feels very similar to the second may value staying mentally healthy more so than physically, so as to remain thoughtful and quick-witted for her job as a teacher. These insights are valuable in developing the payer's brand strategy because they serve to align the brand with what consumers think of when it comes to the concept of health.
In addition to perception, no brand strategy is complete without a plan to deliver on the expectations put forth by the brand promise. There are eight common expectations consumers have of the companies they do business with, and healthcare is no exception. They expect them to be:
Different customers prioritize these expectations differently. Some just want their companies to be accessible and solve their problems, and don't care if they are overtly caring. Maybe this means promoting self-service tools or a 24/7 call center. Others want to work with their healthcare brands to be advisors, which calls for informative literature or connections to specialists and experts. A good brand will represent what's important to its customers, which will strengthen the relationship over the long term.
In combination, these perception and expectation help define the needs of healthcare consumer. Some may be common among all your customers, some may be shared, and some may be unique to certain customer segments. Understanding those needs and how they mix creates the foundation on which your brand strategy can be built.
In our next blog post, we'll focus on how to architect a healthcare brand strategy based on this customer insight and foundation of common, shared, and segment-specific needs.
About the author: Marc Ruggiano is a partner with Peppers & Rogers Group. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org