Health economist Jane Sarasohn-Kahn shares what the healthcare industry can learn about improving the consumer experience from three other organizations.
By Jane Sarasohn-Kahn, MA, MHSA
When healthcare organizations look for superior examples of consumer experience and satisfaction, they often look to the Cleveland Clinic, CIGNA and CVS Health. While these 3 “Cs” in the healthcare ecosystem certainly have lessons to share about building loyalty among customers, there are other companies outside of healthcare that are proving you can pivot quickly to increase customer satisfaction and brand loyalty, even in the midst of a public health crisis.
Delighting Customers and Building Loyalty
Consider, for example, an entirely different 3 “Cs”—Chick-fil-A, Clorox and Chewy. Whether you share enthusiasm for these brands or not, news outlets and industry observers have noted these three organizations have weathered the pandemic well when it comes to improving the consumer experience and increasing customer engagement and satisfaction. What lessons can healthcare stakeholders learn from their efforts?
A Forbes article analyzed various companies’ successful responses to the COVID-19 crisis, noting that one of the less-likely leaders was Chick-fil-A. After shutting down operations for inside-restaurant diners, the company soon constructed drive-through tents to increase capacity. They did so quickly and efficiently, bolstering consumer loyalty.
There is a healthcare riff on this strategy: When COVID-19 vaccines first became available in the United States, a Chick-fil-A operator in Mount Pleasant, S.C., provided guidance for local hospitals dealing with long lines of cars with drivers waiting to get their shots. One local media channel covered the event with the headline, “Chick-fil-A manager saves South Carolina drive-thru COVID-19 vaccination clinic after traffic backup.”
As noted by Nation’s Restaurant News, Chick-fil-A also used technology during the pandemic to improve the customer experience. Steps taken included increasing customer access through the chain’s mobile ordering app and equipping employees outside with iPads to speed drive-through times.
It may seem obvious that a company whose core product addressed a key basic need in our Maslow hierarchies—that is, to ensure hygiene and cleanliness in our homes—would earn consumer trust and engagement during a public health crisis. But Clorox’s consumer brand-love story goes beyond “just” bleach and antibacterial wipes.
The company published a letter to the public in May 2020 titled, “We Want to Continue Earning Your Trust.” Here is an excerpt:
“Clorox will not waver in its response to this crisis and supporting public health. We are in it with you. Our hearts go out to everyone who has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. We’re privileged to be in a position to serve the public health during this time. We are committed to doing everything we can to support consumers, healthcare facilities and communities.
Our most important value as a company, Do the Right Thing, remains the guiding principle of our response. This core value of our company has served us well since 1913, and it has never been more important. Clorox is a health-and-wellness company at heart, and during these past few months our mission has been clear. We know that the public is counting on us and our products to make a difference… in this time of need. Our top three priorities are: protecting the health, safety and well-being of our employees; maximizing supply to get our products where they are needed; supporting caregivers and people most impacted by COVID-19.”
Such an action may seem simple, but this letter qualified Clorox’s statement of purpose in the pandemic. It was a proactive way to set the tone for customer expectations and satisfaction.
The organization was ranked No. 2 of the top 100 essential companies in the pandemic by the Harris Poll Essential 100. Clorox ranked No. 1 for “resolve” and “integrity” defined, respectively, as being part of the solution—relating to innovation, reimagination or application of its core business—and reflecting public trust that they would respond appropriately and effectively.
Chewy was “a very good boy,” quipped a Wall Street Journal analysis of the company’s performance during the pandemic.
COVID-19 changed healthcare—but it also changed the pet business. The need for convenience and safe access altered how pet parents shopped for their fur babies’ food, toys and even healthcare.
How did Chewy respond? As all consumer goods companies and retailers endeavored to do in 2020, Chewy worked hard to keep its supply chain moving.
They were also quick to recognize that pet parents would want virtual care options for getting answers to their questions about pet health and behavior. Having already launched the Chewy Pharmacy in 2018 as a one-stop-shop for pet medications, Chewy doubled-down on health for pets in 2020 by launching Connect with a Vet, which links pet parents directly to veterinarians via chat and video.
Chewy has further expanded its health service portfolio with an e-commerce platform for veterinarians, Practice Hub by Chewy Health. Practice Hub enables veterinarians to price prescriptions and products ordered through the platform, all delivered by Chewy. The goal is to help veterinarians grow their practice revenue by streamlining prescription management and fulfillment for their clients.
Improving the Consumer Experience
These organizations streamlined operations and delivery, quickly pivoting to meet increased consumer demand. Some successfully married consumer experience with digital technology in supply chains, workflows, and design of digital tools such as apps and portals to increase consumer satisfaction and brand loyalty.
Together, they provide useful insights that can translate well to health plans, health systems and providers looking to rebuild consumer relationships and make patient engagement even better in the wake of the pandemic.