Do you enjoy having the wool pulled over your eyes when you are shopping, while trying to make an informed purchase decision? I don't and suspect you don't either. That's why I want to explore why customers want transparency using a recent healthcare example.
I admit, choosing healthcare is extreme since, for most consumers, it hasn't been a typical shopping item unless the procedure isn't covered.
However, healthcare is morphing into one where the purchaser must be as actively involved as s/he would be in buying business IT services, college tuition, a home and other equally high price point goods or services. The involvement inevitably requires research, comparison of options and an understanding of price and benefits. In other words, transparency.
Searching for Transparency for Healthcare Procedures
Let's say I have to purchase an X-ray or an ultrasound. What about a colonoscopy? How much will it cost?
Do you know that you cannot get a straight answer before the procedure? Either from the imaging facility or from the healthcare insurance company. (Interestingly, you can search online for ranges. Why can't the facilities doing the procedures or the insurance companies covering the procedures do the same?)
How are you supposed to determine how procedures add up against your deductibles? How are you supposed to manage your expenditures? How can you evaluate different levels of insurance coverage and possibly buy more?
At the same time, how can you trust the physician recommending those procedures when he or she can't (or won't) provide insight into the financial implications of the recommendations?
Or when you realize that pricing structures vary depending on whether you are insured or not insured...
As a customer spending significant resources, I want transparency. Don't you?
Do Big Healthcare Companies Understand the Need for Transparency?
My healthcare insurance provider has invited me to participate as a research panelist (note: no benefits other than being able to share these stories with you :-)) most recently to provide feedback on various marketing treatments in anticipation of the launch of Health Exchanges.
I found the experience frustrating. I ranked my preferences - ad/brochure images, a tagline and a website. Although the tagline was gobbledygook, other than rank it, I couldn't provide feedback. I couldn't interact and experience the website to honestly provide perspective on how well it communicated helpfulness. Although asked to participate, I don't think the company truly wanted to hear suggestions or concerns about the heart of the messages to be communicated.
After all, when you invite feedback and perspectives, you need to listen and then respond. That's one of the challenges with social media tools and digital marketing. The process forces transparency... even when the feedback isn't what you expect or want.
Healthcare Evolving Toward More Customer Transparency?
As Putting an I in Healthcare from Strategy+Business suggests, these pressures are building more intensely because "The days of the disengaged health consumer are numbered. Consumerization will transform healthcare systems, involving individuals as never before in the management of their own care."
Healthcare can be overwhelming especially when the purchase process is so complex. The article states "The Consumers Union studied the ability of consumers to select a health insurance plan, reporting in January 2012, “Almost all participants were stymied in their desire to identify the best value plan among those offered. While their concept of value was sophisticated, participants had little ability to assess the overall coverage offered by a plan.” The Affordable Care Act is a first step in demystifying the process for consumers, but they will need sustained guidance and support."
Customers will also need transparency.
You'll notice observations about insight-driven offerings such as "life stage–based products that are tailored to match consumers’ evolving health and financial needs as they enter the workforce, start families, or prepare to retire."
You'll also find intriguing examples from Whole Foods and Walmart as well as talk about "compelling end-to-end customer experiences."
The article ends by detailing the stages of new framework for patient engagement, which - to me - isn't possible without transparency:
- Inform me
- Engage me
- Empower me
- Partner with me
- Support my e-community
Customers Want Transparency Not Just in Healthcare!
Healthcare is an expensive purchase and one that is particularly murky. However, there are plenty of other murky ones that customers try to wade through. Is your business one of them?
Customers want transparency. They want to understand what they are buying, what the cost is and what the implications of the purchase are. Given how dependent we are on customers, shouldn't we offer them what they want?
How do you help your customers better understand options? How do you provide them with transparency? What benefits have you observed?
Image credit: Shopping cart of Flickr.