Reconsidering the Consumer Hassle Map


What prevents companies from breaking through the consumer hassle map? Too much time fixing broken bits and not enough time fundamentally rethinking root-cause issues.

Terry Stone

9 min read

We know consumers have been frustrated with healthcare for a long time. For proof, you need look no further than the Net Promoter Scores (a measure of customer loyalty) of healthcare companies. Scores are in the cellar – just above cable companies, with only a handful of healthcare companies garnering scores in the 70s and 80s.

At a macro level, leaders grasp that healthcare falls short in consumer experience, and there is a need to make things more affordable and better. The more progressive leaders understand that if they do not proactively shape and craft better solutions for consumers, others will.

And so there is abundant effort to address the industry’s shortcomings. Organizations have studied what they believe to be are the most pressing consumer hassles and are working earnestly to address those hassles. But we haven’t yet broken through the chaos of the consumer hassle map.

What we tend to do: Fix broken bits

Why is this? Too often, we view hassles as activities, and we focus on functional capabilities. As a result, we end up spending most of our time fixing broken bits and not enough time fundamentally rethinking the root-cause issues.

To be clear, this is not about investing in some new element or technology; it is about consumer-centric design and curation.

Consider the call center. Many healthcare companies have worked to improve their customer call centers, and they have successfully reduced wait times. But this solution does not eliminate the consumer’s original frustration; it just made the process move along slightly faster.

What the consumer actually wanted was not to have to call in the first place. She didn’t want to deal with the hassle that her doctor – credentialed in your network – recommended a mammogram; but after she had the test, she received a “denied” claim because her benefits policy doesn’t provide coverage for someone her age. She’s stuck trying to reconcile how her doctor and your company can be partners, and yet disagree on what’s in her best interest. She is dumbfounded by how it’s now become her problem, and so she’s on the phone. And though she’s waiting less time than in the past, she’s still on the phone, troubleshooting the disconnect between your expectations.

Or take virtual healthcare. There is clear, pent-up demand for telemedicine. It is estimated that 40 to 60 percent of all healthcare encounters could be managed virtually. Millennials, in particular, are primed for a virtual healthcare experience. Many have no personal relationship with their physician, and therefore no desire to interact in person. In fact, a recent Salesforce survey found that 40 percent of Millennials believe that their doctor would not recognize them if they crossed paths while walking down the street.

And yet, telemedicine is slow to gain traction. The reason for the slow uptake? Few virtual medicine offerings are designed from the consumer’s perspective. Most health insurers provide some level of coverage for virtual care and many providers are offering virtual visits. But even when we make convenient care available, it is rarely ready or easy.

When we survey consumers, they tell us that telemedicine is a hassle to use. The trigger point to use it is when they are under pressure or don’t have a lot of time and convenience is critical. It’s 10 o’clock at night and the baby is screaming or there is a meeting in the morning. No one wants to go searching for information about virtual care. And no one wants to spend 20 minutes registering, creating a user ID, or trying to remember my password. This should be automatic and easy and accomplished in one click.

Think also about how we tend to promote telemedicine. The information is usually on a website and a flyer may go out around open-enrollment, or randomly during the year. From the consumer’s vantage point, it is rarely contextually relevant, and it’s never at the right place at the right time. If I don’t have an immediate need to use it, why would it cut through the clutter and gain my awareness and attention?

But what if the efforts were focused around when it is the right time for the healthcare company to explain it to the consumer? As the healthcare company, I don’t always know what you’re about to do, but I do know what you just did. If I receive a claim that says you just went to urgent care for something that didn’t seem crisis-like, now might seem a good time to provide you with information that could have made the experience easier for you to navigate. From the consumer’s vantage point: I had this experience and it was a hassle, and I know it’s going to cost me out of my own pocket. If you send me something about telehealth 24 hours later, I’m going to pay attention.

What we need to do better: Demonstrate an innate understanding of consumer’s needs

The primary obstacle preventing companies from breaking through the hassle map is most are focused on solutions that solve their own problems (eg, controlling costs) versus solutions that solve the consumer’s problems (getting to the doctor is hard and I don’t understand my coverage).

In contrast, when everything you do is considered from the consumer’s vantage point and you design from the consumer in, you demonstrate an innate understanding of the consumer’s needs. That allows you to build trust; and when you have trust, you earn the right to the consumer’s business.

That is the magic of what we call a magnetic offering. Category killers like Facebook, Starbucks, Uber, and Amazon all have a magnetic offering. A magnetic offering means focusing on the moment when the consumer has a need, and then redesigning every aspect of the experience from the consumer perspective so the company meets the need with the right solution at the right time.

To be clear, this is not about investing in some new element or technology; it is about consumer-centric design and curation. It is about doing it better by understanding the consumer better – and then doing it faster and smarter than competitors.

Get over it: Healthcare is not different

When we speak about consumer-focused innovation in healthcare, we often hear that the industry is too complex, too regulated, and too complicated to be reconstructed from the consumer’s perspective. The truth is, financial services has many of the same characteristics, and over the last 30 years, financial services has found a way to meet consumers where they are and create offerings that are tailored to the young, tech-savvy, cashless customer.

What financial services did – despite having the simultaneously cumbersome regulations and obstacles and hurdles – was find a way to eliminate their complex backend from your every day. They don't make their complexity the consumer's problem.

When it comes to healthcare, consumers get it; they know healthcare is not cheap or free. They also know that it won’t be perfect; but they expect us to be able to at least connect the dots that matter and stop making our complexity their problem.