Customer experience is a buzzword. And for good reason. 89% of companies expect to compete mostly based on customer experience. However, experience is difficult to tackle, as it is not the purview of a single department or function. This is especially true in healthcare. The finance department can fix the billing process. Physicians, particularly those who have made the shift to value-based care, can set aside sufficient time to show more empathy. Marketing can create compelling content. But it’s difficult to oversee and manage all those different consumer touchpoints.

However, customer experience is the vehicle for delivering on a brand promise and building customer loyalty. This is true for health systems, payers and pharmaceutical manufacturers. And it is much bigger than a “marketing challenge.”

Charlene Li, in her new report Experience Strategy:  Connecting Customer Experience to Business Strategy,” makes three arguments about how to build a next generation experience strategy, which are useful for health care experience strategists:

1. Take a next generation view of the customer

Li writes, “Viewing experience only through the lens of the (direct) customer ignores other key relationships – those between organizations and their employees, investors, suppliers, partners and volunteers. All of these relationships deserve having an experience designed for them, hence the need for a comprehensive business strategy that drives holistic results.”

I’ve been privy to several of these kinds of debates at healthcare companies: Do we target our communications about health insurance to the employer or the employees? Should we talk to the physician who prescribes our drug or go directly the patient? The key is to think of them in tandem, not prioritize among them.

Anything done to help the patient makes the physician look good and can help make the pharma manufacturer a hero with both. For example, think of a pharma-provided platform that helps patients track and recall symptoms over time, and shares that data with physicians. Physician are able to better engage with and diagnose patient, and the pharma company gains favor with both, not to mention access to valuable data.

2.  Move from optimizing touchpoints to creating relationships

Here is an example of a pharma company making such a shift: Instead of reworking an insulin injector so the needle is never seen, although a great start as many consumers do not like needles, the company will focus on the patient relationship. With a diabetic, this might include creating a connected ecosystem that allows the patient to collect and monitor different data points about his health, which will enable him to better adjust insulin levels. The system can automatically share this data via the cloud to a physician of his choice in order to facilitate a better dialogue.

Embracing this shift for health systems means thinking about the consumer journey across the continuum of care, ensuring it is integrated and building systems and processes to enhance holistically. This is a bigger undertaking than reducing night time noise on the med-surg floor.

3.  Shift from siloed business metrics to relationship metrics

Li writes, “Organizations are notoriously bad at understanding and measuring the depth and health of relationships. It’s much easier to count things – sales, journeys completed, social media followers, etc. … If you measure and value these things, then you are back to optimizing touchpoints, not relationships.”

Incentivizing service operations teams based on the call transaction may shorten wait times, but not improve the overall customer relationship. While the increased currency of the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) is a step toward putting the patient at the center, organizations that have moved to relationship-oriented measurements like Net Promotor Scores – and integrated them into incentives across all their functions – will ultimately have the most successful customer experience strategy.

Read the latest research from Charlene Li, principal analyst at Altimeter, “Experience Strategy: Connecting Customer Experience to Business Strategy” to learn how to align your strategies of experience, brand, and business. The report also includes a maturity model for experience strategy, case studies, consumer data, and specific steps and recommendations.