Delivering a stellar experience for all key stakeholders in medtech

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Like many industries, medtech companies are grappling with how best to satisfy the ever-changing needs and expectations of their stakeholders, including patients, healthcare professionals (HCPs), or procurement professionals. This represents a significant shift for the industry: in the past, ensuring that HCPs could get access to state-of-the-art devices was relatively simple, allowing the sector to focus on product innovation. Now, the focus is broadening to include how to drive positive engagement across in-person, digital, and remote touchpoints and contribute to better patient outcomes through a stellar customer experience (CX).

However, in a highly regulated and complex industry like medtech, the answers for how to do this are not always clear. Who is "responsible" for shaping the experience of different stakeholder groups, including patients, HCPs, and procurement professionals? How do businesses transform how they operate to meet the needs of these different stakeholder groups? And how do they provide a stellar experience in fast-growing sectors, like ambulatory care?1Walking out of the hospital: The continued rise of ambulatory care and how to take advantage of it,” McKinsey, September 18, 2020.

The medtech industry is not only fragmented, but changing too. The restrictions placed on in-person engagements during COVID-19 led to new practices and preferences, and placed greater importance on aspects beyond product. A McKinsey survey of HCPs from around the world found that the number of US-based HCPs preferring in-person interactions with medical device sales reps decreased from 76 percent pre-COVID to 58 percent by August 2021.2 Their preference for remote engagement grew 30 percent, and 20 percent for digital channels, over the same time frame.

HCPs and procurement professionals in the United States also cite poor experience as one of the main drivers for switching medical device supplier. Some 65 percent say a negative experience with technical support is enough to make them change supplier, while 55 percent would consider switching because of a negative customer service experience.3

Given the growing importance of CX, some of the leading medtech players are starting to craft novel experiences for their customers. Those that continue to rely on “traditional” engagement models for HCPs, procurement professionals, and patients may be at risk of falling behind.

The sector can look beyond the medtech industry to build a compelling case for improving CX—and also for lessons on how to go about doing it. Across industries, CX leaders have seen 15 to 20 percent increases in sales conversion rates, 20 to 50 percent declines in service costs, and 10 to 20 percent improvements in customer satisfaction.4The three building blocks of successful customer-experience transformations,” McKinsey, October 27, 2020. For medtechs and the health systems around them, improved CX could mean better outcomes for patients, access to state-of-the-art treatment options for HCPs, and increased loyalty across all stakeholder groups.

But to access these benefits, CX leaders in medtech companies must navigate a complex stakeholder landscape—with patients, HCPs, and procurement professionals across increasingly distributed care, a highly regulated environment when it comes to messaging and rules of engagement, and complex, sometimes long, purchasing journeys.

Developing a stellar CX for all key stakeholder groups may not be a linear journey for medtechs—and may be achieved in pockets to begin with. This article explores the steps medtechs can take now to start unlocking value.

Building blocks for unlocking CX value

Based on feedback from more than 100 CX leaders across various industries, companies are using a proven three-part formula for CX transformation (exhibit).5The three building blocks of successful customer-experience transformations,” McKinsey, October 27, 2020. Those that focus on experiences are driving two times revenue growth versus those who don’t. This includes:

  1. Setting a clearly defined aspiration and linking it to business value.
  2. Transforming the business to better support the needs of customers, grounded in deep insights.
  3. Enabling the transformation through transforming capabilities, stepping up digital and analytics, establishing cross-functional operating models, and deploying a comprehensive measurement system.
Three building blocks commonly feature in CX transformation best practice.

A leading medtech client in the in-vitro diagnostics (IVD) space has applied these building blocks to transform its CX, leading to a significant and immediate uplift in satisfaction.

This particular transformation was grounded in a change in company aspiration, following in-depth customer research across customer groups. Through these insights, the business realized its aspirational purpose for patients and society had obscured an important stakeholder group: lab workers and HCPs performing tests on their devices every single day. The company broadened its aspiration to include all customers and designed a roadmap with CX initiatives addressing major pain points for lab workers and HCPs.

To deliver first proof points against its new CX ambition, the company decided to rethink one of its most critical customer journeys: the issue resolution journey. Leveraging in-depth interviews and user diaries, the company identified key pain points and cocreated with lab managers and workers a novel digital solution for remote support. An agile approach to the development of the new solution allowed the company to work closely with customers and ensure a great final “product fit”. This translated into a more than 40 percent improvement in satisfaction within two months of launching the redesigned journey. The collective efforts to improve customer service journeys could have a potential business impact of more than $60 million per year.

In parallel, the IVD company has also started working on the enablers of the transformation, including establishing a thorough CX measurement system following a simple logic of measure, analyze, and act. The system is based on a globally harmonized CX KPI driver tree that starts with the overall customer satisfaction or Net Promooter Score (NPS) at the top, breaking it down into mutually exclusive, but exhaustive drivers, including product, service, and price, in a structured approach.

The company uses the CX KPI driver tree to measure transactional satisfaction after an interaction and has also introduced a global benchmarking study across countries and competitors to distill key improvement themes. At the same time, customer responses to the company’s transactional survey, or reaching certain thresholds, trigger pre-defined responses—for example, a follow-up call after a bad experience.

Medtech companies looking to emulate these kinds of improvements can look both within the industry and beyond to seek inspiration when building aspiration and purpose, transforming the business, and enabling the change.

Building aspiration and purpose

Medtech companies are not short on purpose, given their focus on driving patient outcomes and improving lives. Applying CX principles can help medtechs create even more value for patients, HCPs, and other stakeholders—for example, by creating a new offering for orthopedic surgeons to help them prepare for surgery.

A leading US medtech client has used purpose to drive a company-wide digital transformation, aligning the company behind its “North Star” of delivering a seamless, personalized, and highly relevant experience, every single time. The business has translated this North Star into tangible business goals, such as supporting existing customers through the full breadth of its product portfolio, and digitizing customer service to provide a modern and cost-efficient offering. The desired business outcomes are underpinned by key initiatives along the entire customer journey—from raising awareness with new customers to driving the loyalty of existing customers—resulting in a total value at stake of more than $180 million per year.

Outside of the medtech world, a global pharmaceutical company has also found success by setting an ambitious aspiration—it its case, to leverage CX to manage churn and retention and drive sustained revenue growth. The team created a business case to transform detractors and neutrals into promoters, to capture the benefits of lower churn and comparatively higher spend. The expected revenue impact from this global CX transformation program could reach as much as $400 million.

And beyond the healthcare space, aspirations are driving CX transformations too. A global B2B and B2C insurance company has established a clear North Star to become a loyalty leader in more than 80 percent of its markets globally. The company has linked this aspiration to business impact and communicated it externally to the capital market.

Transforming the business

Customer-centric medtech companies are often relentless in their drive to understand and empathize with patients, HCPs, and other stakeholders. To achieve this level of customer centricity, they have to transform the way they operate to identify customer needs and then redesign customer journeys, products, services, and business models to deliver with impact. These efforts can result in redesigning journeys to support medical education, for example, or crafting entirely new offerings, like an app to support treatment adherence.

A global medtech client with a broad product portfolio across multiple specialities took the first step towards customer centricity by deploying ethnographic research methods to generate deep stakeholders insights for doctors, nurses, and hospital executives. Working with these insights, the company has established a harmonized customer journey taxonomy and prioritized action on the most important pain points across business units.

Given the breadth of the product portfolio and complexity of the stakeholder landscape, the company identified a need to support their customer-facing employees with an AI-based decision-support tool, “next best action”. The tool was codesigned with sales reps to meet their needs and gives meaningful recommendations to optimize stakeholder engagement in any given customer account. Moreover, it supports the sales rep to use their time most efficiently.

Enabling the change

Even with the best aspiration and customer insights, no CX transformation can succeed without the right set of enablers. Customer-centric medtech companies have successfully built capabilities at scale, stepped up their analytics and tech capabilities, and introduced comprehensive measurement systems.

Leading medtechs are investing in technology and data and analytics to support operations and customer engagement. A key example is the expansion of e-commerce capabilities in medtech through an omnichannel approach.6Omnichannel engagement in medtech: The time is now,” McKinsey, May 19, 2021. Less commonly, companies are investing in predictive analytics tools for CX, including customer-level data lakes and customer relationship management (CRM) platforms.7Prediction: The future of CX,” McKinsey, February 24, 2021.

A US-based healthcare provider we work with has unlocked value by developing machine learning (ML) to understand patient experience and drive retention. By understanding which patients were having positive and negative experiences in the health system, the provider has been able to recognize the drivers of such experiences and track the impact of customer experience initiatives. The ML models leverage historic data across thousands of variables to predict experience and retention, and these predictions are accessed via a dashboard with simulation capabilities to offer a near-real-time view of predicted experience and retention, and determine which drivers are truly improving experiences.

A pilot project involving 660 patients focused on one use case: preventative care outreach— resulting in more than two million patients being scored for experience and retention, with a refreshed daily view. The pilot identified more than 200 value drivers that are creating or destroying patient experience, and led to a two-to-eight time lift in the preventative care conversion rate, compared to existing outreach.

Despite proven results, many medtech companies are still struggling to move from project-driven CX efforts to truly anchoring CX in their respective organizations. Outside of the medtech space, a global payor client is achieving sustained change by establishing an organization and operating model to cement its CX transformation.

It created a new CX function, reporting to the COO’s office, with the company’s Customer Board defining the overall strategic direction for CX. In parallel, the transformation journey team developed an operating model with clear roles and responsibilities. The core CX team consisted of an owner, journey advisor and additional roles for market research, design thinking, and CX measurement, and a metrics expert and change manager to embed customer-centric ways of working within the wider business. The team also tracked customer insights with a sophisticated measurement system, fueling CX operations both at a strategic and day-to-day level.

How to get started: Taking the first steps on the CX transformation journey

While focused pilots and use cases can and do deliver results, the greatest sustained impact in CX comes from bringing together the three building blocks of CX transformation to uncover opportunities to optimize processes, differentiate business offerings, and drive incremental value creation.

Medtech companies that aspire to become more customer-centric can begin their CX transformation by focusing on three quick-start methods: setting the aspiration and priorities, creating momentum through lighthouse projects, and building out the insights, tools, and systems to drive change.

Set a bold aspiration for customer centricity and identify priority initiatives

Shaping a common vision and aspiration is a critical, foundational step to define what a stellar experience looks like for all stakeholder groups. Ideally, this effort should involve the executive team and include a quantitative aspiration grounded in internal and external benchmarks, and be laid out over a two-to-five-year timeline, with priority initiatives to spur action.

Create momentum with a lighthouse project

Proving the impact in a narrow use case can create important momentum for a broader CX transformation. Many companies launch one or more “lighthouse” projects that can deliver concrete results with minimal investment. Medtech companies could begin by prioritizing the most important customer journeys and starting a focused redesign. Aside from proving the impact, these lighthouse projects demonstrate to the business new ways of working, including cocreating with patients, HCPs, or procurement professionals, and building new capabilities like design thinking.

Build an integrated insights and action engine

The most forward-looking companies have created integrated data lakes and used advanced analytics and ML to predict customer-related KPIs and improve the experiences of every customer. An analytics engine that enables all customer-facing employees and leadership to identify the customer interventions and optimize engagement can be deployed in as little as three to four months.

CX capability is still underdeveloped in the medtech sector, but leading companies are taking the first steps toward unlocking the value at stake and building a competitive edge. Their secret is simple—start where you are, and start now.

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