Archives for November 2013

This Customer Experience Auto Be Better

UnknownOk, I couldn’t resist the pithy title to this post.  So after you’re done gagging, please read on.  Because I need some help on this one.

The last time I wrote a post on the topic of the car buying experience, was four years ago.  Probably because that was the last time I was put through this particular gauntlet.  Now, that I’ve recently had to have the bamboo jammed under my fingernails again, I was curious to see what had changed, if anything.

The article that sparked that last post told tales of customers falling victim to a multitude of car dealer scams.  Reflecting back on that last purchase I made, I wasn’t exposed to deception at that cunning a level.  However, there was the fair share of negotiation shenanigans that I had to endure. Such as the sales guy wearing a path in the carpet back and forth to the business manager’s (a.k.a. The Wizard of Oz) office with different prices.  At one point, he wrote a number on a scrap piece of paper  and told me I had to sign it in order for the business manager to know that was the number I wished to present to the man behind the curtain.  Of course, I signed nothing.  But, the the process just had a general overtone of friction and contention.  I never got the feeling that anyone was looking to make the experience enjoyable or easy.  It was like trudging through wet sand with the sharks just off the coast waiting for a wave to come and trip me up and pull me out to where they could strike.  I was on my guard. But, I never slipped.

Flash forward to last week.  I had what I thought was a simple transaction.  I was converting a lease of a car I currently had in my possession into a purchase.  Buying out the lease.  No inventory to move.  No price to negotiate as the buyout price or residual value as it’s called, was already set three years ago when I first leased the car.  In most states, this transaction is completed directly with the leasing company, over the phone and via mail.  But not in my state.  Here, this transaction has to be handled through a dealer.  But it was still simple.  Write a check.  Transfer the title.  And, be done with it.  Ah, but little did I know, there was still a few flaming spears to be hurled my way.

They weren’t big spears.  Maybe darts is a more accurate description.  Like running 100 feet past pugli stick-weilding drill sergeants.  Not painful.  But, I was going to get batted around a bit before I was allowed to emerge.  Again, the visit with the business manager.  The good thing is, I actually got to go behind the curtain and see the face this time.  The pitch for the extended warranty, the clear coat, the window etching, the leather conditioner, all the add-ons that generate profit margins that would pique the interest of the SEC if this were a hedge fund.

So, I share this to find out if I’m still the only one.  With all the information that car buyers are able to arm themselves with now, will the white flag every be waved by the industry?  Will the experience ever become “one click”?  I can buy a television that costs as much as a Bugatti (actually, no I can’t. Because I can afford it.) .  Do it on line at 2am.  And have it shipped directly to my door.  So, what still makes car buying such a battle of wits?

If you’ve had a really good, I mean truly enjoyable, car buying experience, can you share your story?  I figure I must be missing something that others know.

Affordable Care Needs To Be Accountable Care

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Another installment in the examination of healthcare through the customer experience lens from Amber Thompson and John McCabe.

Now that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has become a reality to employers, consumers, and insurers, many are still wondering “what is the real impact to me?”  The good news is now all Americans (employed or not, sick or well) qualify for an affordable health plan as Insurers can no longer deny medical coverage based on health status.  In 2010, the U.S. Census Bureau published an article informing us that 49.8 million Americans were without health insurance. While this is an important step in achieving equality across all citizens, unilaterally providing comprehensive coverage will also help battle chronic plagues and cost drains on the system- namely using the emergency department as primary care and over-utilization of resources (diagnostics and tests, repeat admissions, frequent ER flyers).  As a result of changes forced by reform, our patient population can now be viewed more holistically. While Physicians are still focused on providing the best care possible, it is important to remember that services can now be provided to a much larger audience. With millions of consumers now eligible for insurance coverage, healthcare and ancillary service providers are faced with a new challenge- sheer volume. To avoid the old model of providing care based solely on utilization and not on quality, we need to use this opportunity to reinvent how patients are treated by the system.

One way to accomplish this goal is to provide services based on preference and convenience. If we take a page from the education industry, transformation and innovation can be driven by consumer preference, where it seems unlikely on the surface. Academic institutions have been listening to consumers.  And as a result, we now have many virtual learning options.  Many find that the virtual classroom provides easy and convenient access to higher education while providing students the same services as the traditional classroom setting.  But most importantly, the education industry created alternative options based on what consumers wanted.  And in turn, increased the amount of adult learners by 30% over the last five years.  According to a study “Going the Distance: Online Education in the United States, 2011”, more than 6.1 million students took at least one online class during the Fall of 2010.

Healthcare continues to transform delivery models.  But it’s important to remember that the patient is the most important factor in meaningful care delivery. When we provide the patient and their families’ convenient options, the ability to access Healthcare Providers in real-time to help navigate comprehensive care maps, the integrated care team model becomes much more attainable.  The Patient Centered Medical Home (PCMH) concept definitely works in bringing many providers to the patient.  But we have to make sure these options are as convenient for patients and their extended support system as they are for the Healthcare Providers.

Now that we have the ability to treat more people due to ACA, let’s make sure we take full advantage of the opportunity to drive long-term change that benefits everyone- better utilized resources (equitable consumption), reduce waste due to unnecessary tests and procedures (lower cost), and healthcare as an attractive and financially attainable career choice (create access). It’s certainly going to be a long and winding road, but it’s also an exciting time to be a part of this industry.