In 1996, the Harvard Business Review published an article entitled “The Real Value of On-Line Communities”. In it, the author stated, “By creating strong on-line communities, businesses will be able to build customer loyalty to a degree that today’s marketers can only dream of and, in turn, generate strong economic returns.”
Fast forward nearly 25 years to COVID-19 and office hallways, meeting rooms, conference centers and commuter trains are sparsely populated, if not empty. People are not shaking hands, meeting in-person, or building a personal rapport the way we always have. In health care, telemedicine has become the new primary care, almost overnight. In this way, businesses are being forced to re-imagine relationships with their customers—not to prosper, but to survive.
IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON COMMUNITY CONNECTIONS
With the absence of personal encounters, all sectors of society have had to redefine and determine how to measure engagement, influence, and satisfaction.
At CRICO Strategies, we already functioned in a virtual way, as our CBS community of medical professional liability (MPL) insurers and health systems is geographically dispersed. As a result, almost all of our engagement happens virtually—through webinars, calls, emails, and our online CBS Community. In the immediate aftermath of COVID-19, when everyone was coping with and adjusting to a very new way of living, we expected our activities to fall low on the priority list for our community members. Instead, participation in calls and online activity doubled. It turns out that people want to connect and will do so with the means available to them.
We launched the online CBS community as a tool for driving engagement in a safe and secure place where clients could share, interact, access content, and derive value from their involvement with CBS, accessible on-demand. Since then, several CBS member organizations have shared that driving engagement and fostering loyalty among their insureds is becoming a business priority.
In the realm of medical malpractice insurance, captive and commercial insurers share the common desire to help influence the way their insured clinicians think, practice and make decisions, with the agenda of reducing the risk of harm to patients and the corresponding likelihood of a claim that pays.
Does this unique time in history afford us the opportunity to innovate in how we transform our list of customers and insureds into a cohesive, engaged and loyal community?
When I was at QuantiaMD, an online community of 225,000 physicians who received education and discussed topics and cases with each other on their mobile devices, the most important metric to the Board and investors was “average character count per user comment.” They believed that a busy physician taking the time out of a demanding day to type a long and substantive message to a colleague or peer was the best measure of engagement and, therefore, a strong marker for loyalty.
In the early days of the QuantiaMD community, the average character count per post was 8-10 (“Nice post”). A few years later, after tireless efforts to crack the engagement code for physicians, the average character count per post was over 90. This meant that tens of thousands of physicians were giving their own time to sit and type thoughtfully, even passionately, to their peers in a safe but fully transparent environment.
As you consider ways in which you can engage and influence your insureds, providers, and key stakeholders in this new world, there are a variety of things that you can think about. I developed the following checklist based on my experience with a physician community which may help guide how you look to engage your physician audiences.
- Is it brief? Driven by throughput targets and other time-based pressures, a physician’s or provider’s day is lived in 12-minute increments. Make sure what you’re asking them to do isn’t too time consuming.
- Is there evidence? Whoever is asking for their time and attention must lead with evidence on the topic being addressed.
- Is it current? The massive scope and rapid turnover of information that drives physician decisions requires that you understand the shortening shelf-life of what is considered current.
- Is it engaging? If it’s true that physicians don’t have time to read, engage their other senses and use tools and methods to get and keep their attention. And remember, there is no better indication that a physician is engaged than when he or she is typing or talking. Ask yourself what will inspire him or her to do either.
- Is it practical? If something asking for physicians’ time and attention is not action-able, and therefore not practical or relevant, it will be dismissed. Physicians don’t have time for theory.
- Is it convenient? Don’t make them come to you. Make it easy for them to engage within their hectic and demanding day.
- Is it important? When everything is important, nothing is important. Physicians are desensitized to urgency, so understand what they consider to be urgent and why.
- Is it transparent? Physicians are adept at perceiving hidden agendas. Tell them what you want and why. Don’t sugar coat it.
- Is it safe? When they invest their time and attention, they want to know that their interests are protected—their reputation, personal information, and financial security.
People want community, especially now. And what community looks and feels like is in the eye of the beholder. Those who do it well (defined as: value to the community member) will inspire loyalty.