A 3-Step Cure for Healthcare’s Trust Problem
Trust is an essential ingredient in the relationship between a brand and its consumers. With trust, brands enjoy increased reputation, likelihood to recommend, loyalty and advocacy—one of the most crucial ingredients that brands need to grow in today’s world. Lose trust, and the future can feel bleak, especially if you don’t take immediate and transparent actions to address the gaps. In an earlier post, we explored the 3 strategies that brands must implement in order to establish and maintain trust with people:
- Keep your promises
- Deliver consistent experiences
- Put people first, always
These imperatives ring true for brands from all industries—but as healthcare brand practitioners at Monigle, we wanted to dig deeper into exactly what trust means to healthcare brands and the people that they serve. What we found shouldn’t be a shock to anyone who’s paying attention: healthcare has a trust problem.
“To be honest, healthcare brands are not the same as say food or entertainment brands. Once I don’t feel like I can trust a healthcare provider, I don’t think I could continue to see them long enough for them to even have the opportunity to gain trust back. There is just too much at stake with your body and life to stay somewhere you don’t feel cared for.” – Female healthcare consumer, Midwestern U.S.
A high-stakes and emotionally charged industry by nature, healthcare brands are held to higher standards—and often found lacking, based on poor experiences that cause consumers to lose trust in the brand. When we conducted research with more than 15,000 healthcare consumers across the country, one out of two consumers stated that they don’t always trust their healthcare provider. Three trust issues emerged:
- Feeling like they are not receiving individualized care: Consumers lose trust when they feel like providers are not spending enough time with them, rushing between appointments, failing to address all questions or concerns, and not demonstrating enough care and compassion in the moment where emotions run deepest.
- Perception that the provider does not have the person’s best interest at heart: When consumers feel that their provider or healthcare facility has hidden motives, such as driving up cost or responding to insurance company pressures, it causes them to lose trust in their provider.
- Poor outcomes and misdiagnosis: While sometimes inevitable, many consumers expressed that they lose trust in health care organizations where they, or a family member, experiences a poor outcome. This is particularly true in instances perceived as avoidable, such as failed treatment plans or misdiagnosis.
When consumers encounter these types of negative scenarios and experiences in a healthcare setting, their trust in the organization understandably plummets. And, according to many, that breach of trust is extremely difficult—if not impossible—for healthcare brands to overcome especially when we consider the frequency (or lack thereof) of interactions we have with some consumer segments.
While poor health outcomes are often unavoidable, our Humanizing Brand Experience findings illuminate the different strategies healthcare brands can implement to increase the feeling of individualized care and communicate a people-over-profit approach. We boiled these trust-boosting strategies into three steps healthcare brands can take today:
Step 1: Make preventative personal
The first step to increasing trust in your healthcare brand is to avoid losing in the first place. Build a human-forward brand, culture and experience that prioritizes the 3 strategies that generate trust. Make sure every single employee at your organization understands the brand experience and their role in it and feels personally empowered to live that brand and deliver high-quality, human experiences. An experience that feels individualized is tailored to the individual, and for many is defined by the provider taking time to listen and customize treatments to unique, personalized scenarios and circumstances.
Step 2: Create “people-first” culture and communications
For many, trust in a healthcare provider is established when they feel confident that their provider has their best interest in mind. To build a culture that truly puts people first, make sure your employees are equipped with experience and service behaviors that put people first. Implement a clear, human voice for all communications (including how we script interactions) that makes it easier for people to understand their care. At the end of the day, commit to acting as an advocate for the experience at your organization—make sure your brand is living up to those “people-over-profits” promises it’s making.
Step 3: Respond quickly when problems arise
In order to win trust back when it’s threatened or lost, healthcare brands must immediately address and rectify problems that occur. This often goes hand-in-hand with customer service: people want their problems addressed efficiently and personally. This is particularly important for healthcare, where distrust often happens on a personal scale—and, where people are less willing to give second chances. In healthcare, it’s also important to consider that trust erosion can happen much later in the experience—sometimes at the point where we’ve “forgotten” about the experience someone had with us. More specifically, there are big risk factors to trust long after you solve someone’s medical issue. Consider how much trust is at stake when someone receives multiple bills that they weren’t expecting, or they can’t get clarity around the cost of services that they may have received weeks (if not months) before?
One thing you will quickly see across these steps? This is not a Marketing problem. If you look at your trust gap as one that teams in Brand, Marketing and Communications can fix on their own then you’re missing the bigger picture. Trust is built through multi-disciplinary, silo-busting collaboration. Your trust problems cannot be solved by one team alone. Along with implementing these steps, you must approach the problem with a change in mindset—we can only address trust problems by making it a shared priority and responsibility across the enterprise. You can’t message your way out of a trust issue; people see right through it.
Healthcare marketers and brand leaders, we want to hear from you: what steps has your organization taken to prevent and repair loss of trust with people? Connect with us on social, or start a conversation.