Customer Engagement: The Missing Link to Employee Health?

Even though I’ve spent most of my career wearing a consumer marketing hat, I’m increasingly convinced that the key to success in driving health behavior change is customer engagement.

Customers are ultimately responsible for approval and oversight of vendor-led programs, but too often are not fully engaged themselves. Our belief is that this contributes to a significant portion of today’s Engagement Gap.

Back when I was advertising account management, the customer always held the keys. Agency recommendations on budgets, copy, media, research and all other aspects of marketing were subject to client refinements and approvals. And they were actively engagesmart in all aspects of the ad campaigns.

Most client-agency relationships were built on trust, mutual respect and a shared recognition of what’s right for the business. Sure, there were plenty of disagreements, but the depth and breadth of the relationship enabled for reasonable solutions.

This degree of relationship-building is lacking in health and well-being improvement. There are gaps in the vendor selection process and shortfalls in account management. And this limits the potential of many well-designed programs.

For more on this, please read on… and feel free to contact me if you could use help in this area. Our consulting work can help you drive better and deeper customer engagement.

We see many employers today bringing on new and different vendors to help drive better participant engagement in their health and well-being improvement programs. Hefty incentives, healthy competitions, wellness games, wearable devices and many other new ideas are all being implemented in an effort to gain greater employee interest, action and outcomes.

But the first step to success in all this is effective customer engagement.

This sets the tone for the direction, design and deployment of the right mix of health and well-being services.

One critical problem is that customers too often base their vendor choices on insufficient information and insight.

Many decisions are driven by consultant-led RFP responses and finalist meetings that bear little resemblance to the actual experience of program roll-outs.

In the advertising business, it was all too common for the agency to bring in their best and brightest to the pitch, only to shift to the bench team once the account was won.

Too many customers also expect vendors and health plans to “do it for them.” They want low-cost, turnkey solutions that produce measurable results. This doesn’t reflect reality – employer teams must play essential roles in engaging and encouraging their workforce.

And inside customer organizations, there are often silos that diminish the impact of many efforts which rely on cross-functional integration. Strong account management leadership can help this and many other challenges that HR and benefits folks are not normally asked to address.

Relationship Building

Employers purchase many services that include easy-to-use supplies, or plug-and-play programs, but there marked differences between buying tangible goods versus buying intangible services.

If a buyer is a spreadsheet-focused, pencil sharpening accountant buying from the low cost producer of widgets, then there is virtually no need to build a business relationship. Transactions will continue as long as price and quality standards are met.

But in dealing with the intangibles of health behavior change, there are good reasons to forge a strong strategic relationship between buyer and seller.

Having spent a career in advertising, I’ve seen quite an array of approaches to building customer relationships.

Remember the three-martini lunch? Me neither, but I do enjoy watching Mad Men… !

Until the procurement people began barging in during the late 90s, advertising execs and their client counterparts really did emphasize their business partnerships.

This is far less evident in the relationship between employer/buyers and vendor/sellers of health and well-being improvement services.

Consider the way many such services are pitched to customers today – too often via intermediaries and through electronic exchange of documents and proposals – without ever really exposing the seller to the buyer’s team, their population, and their specific needs.


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