What lessons can healthcare marketers learn from the EpiPen scandal and the Yelp lawsuit?
Consumer opinion has been in the news a lot lately. Between a judge ruling that Yelp can’t be held accountable for how its users negative comments may affect businesses and consumer outrage leading lawmakers to investigate one pharmaceutical company’s price hikes on their life-saving EpiPens, it’s more clear than ever that we the people have a voice that cannot be silenced.
The Amplification of Consumer Voice
Bad reviews on the internet matter, which Douglas Kimzey, the business owner who filed the libel suit against Yelp knows. The Chicago Tribune reported him as saying, “If you have a one-star rating, people won't go near it…They don't care if you've been in business for one week or 25 years."
And with physicians noting that “More and more parents are complaining over the last month that the cost of EpiPens has gone through the roof,” and the New York Times reporting on how consumer complaints have lead to politicians beginning legal action, it’s obvious no industry, even healthcare, can afford the ramifications of ignoring consumer opinion any longer.
We’re All Connected, Online, All the Time
Modern life is connected – on your smartphone, through your Facebook network and Twitter feeds, even getting text alerts from your children’s schools. With that interdependency comes the onslaught of information, opinions, and opportunities to give and receive feedback anywhere, anytime.
Healthcare marketers need to wake up and smell the power of digital consumer experience. If a patient has a bad experience, whether that’s a lengthy wait time or poor outcomes after surgery, you can’t escape their bad reviews by hiding and hoping they’ll disappear or trying to trick them with a half-baked apology with no change behind it. They’ll tell their friends, post on third-party review sites, even write reviews on your own social media pages, and if you try to ignore them, you could end up in a storm of bad publicity and public opinion.
Need More Convincing?
- 70% of Americans will read a review before making a buying decision
- 44% of people would go out of network to see a better reviewed physician
- Investment analysts conclude negative media attention can cause “real damage”
- According to a former hospital COO, “Social media is ramping up the word-of-mouth recommendations that people have always made. Healthcare providers need to be going on Yelp and similar sites to see what their patients are saying about them.”
So How Do You Handle It?
Consumers value transparency, and when you address their concerns as individuals, you’re showing them you have nothing to hide. View negative reviews and feedback as an opportunity to engage your consumers and improve on your reputation. If addressing the complaint requires discussing personal health information, invite them to call or use a secure messaging channel. Don’t just ignore a problem because it’s complicated.
If you encounter a complaint about pricing, like the makers of EpiPen, Mylan, honesty and transparency still matter. Part of the reason Mylan is in such hot water is because of their steep price hikes over the past few years, none of which they’ve been able to explain to the public’s satisfaction. Today’s healthcare consumers will price shop, and if your services are more expensive, you should be able to stand behind their greater value, outcomes, or physician expertise.
What this all really means is you must value your consumer’s feelings, opinions, and experience from the first time they encounter your organization online to their first phone call to their experience in your facility and offices to how your billing department treats them. It all matters. Your consumers’ voices are louder than ever, so it’s time to listen up.
If 2016 was The Year of the Healthcare Consumer, then we expect 2017 to continue the trend. So what can you do to provide the actual elements that make up great consumer experience? From our research, the top digital consumer experience requirements are:
- Provider Ratings
- Provider Directory
- Transactional Elements (bill pay, etc.)
- Online Scheduling
- Secure Messaging
You may not be able to accomplish everything all at once, but failing to try could turn consumer opinion against you. Listen to your consumers. Be proactive. Give the people what they want.
Need help figuring out your digital consumer engagement strategy? Request a healthcare marketing assessment and get started on the path to providing better digital consumer experiences.