About The Brand Enabled Podcast & all episodes

Two women laughing

We are fortunate enough to have Riham El-Lakany, joining us. Introduce yourself to us, please.

Thank you for having me. My name is Riham El-Lakany. I am the Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at BJC HealthCare.

It’s quite a history, both in other areas and in getting into healthcare. Everyone is tuning in here to talk about how we all become Digitally Enabled in a universal problem. Tell us about a digital problem you solved. What was the problem and how did you discover that it was there?

There are a lot of digital problems that we have both in healthcare but as well as in other sectors. My background has been predominantly in financial services and marketing within financial services. We have a lot of areas that we needed to digitize as is the case now in healthcare. One of the areas that I thought would be an interesting one to share with you and with those reading the blog is the area of process and process transactions in particular with consumers.

We should never lose a transaction or a client because our process is cumbersome.

That’s one area where, as you know, it’s cumbersome. It could take a lot of time. It is somewhat digitized. You can pay a bill online for the most part but usually, the experience is not a great one. One of my prior roles is I sat down with our colleagues in operations and IT. We talked about one of the experiences that our clients were going through. It was a cumbersome, tedious experience. It was online but it could have been optimized when we applied a consumer lens to it and not just a transactional operational lens.

We brought in elements of customer experience in there, thinking about things like the UX, searchability, and findability, and took what was an operationally-focused cumbersome process and made it a much more interactive, friendly, easy to use, and still serves the same purpose. It’s a transaction at the end of the day, and it’s an operational one but the experience became so much better and easier. It had an impact on our interaction with our clients.

It’s unusual to have marketing come in, talk to IT, talk to operations and convince them that it’s a branding and a marketing issue, and be able to have such influence over the redirection of that process. How did you discover it? How did you get involved in it? How did you convince them because it’s not always the easiest task?

It’s not easy. How I said this story sounds like, “It took one meeting or something.” It wasn’t. It was a quite long journey to do that. I stumbled upon this opportunity for us. We were talking with a client in a client meeting. The client said, “Your process is cumbersome, so much so that sometimes we go to your competitor because it takes less time to go through that process.”

Deep thinking about branding

Digital Problem: Sometimes, you lose on price. Sometimes, you lose on product features. But to lose because of a process germane to customer experience, we had to solve through a customer experience lens.

I recall going back to the team and saying, “We should never lose a transaction or a client because our process is cumbersome.” Sometimes you lose on price. Sometimes you lose on product features but to lose because of a process, that to me, was germane to customer experience and we had to solve it through a customer experience lens.

We had a series of meetings with colleagues in IT, operations, legal, and compliance to make sure they were comfortable with this. We showed them data. We recorded some sessions of how our clients were interacting with this process and how quickly they dropped off and how their mouse was moving all over the place because they didn’t know where to go. That was compelling and they couldn’t deny it.

We also showed them examples from our industry but also from other industries and made the point of people do not only compare to the industry or they are comparing with everyday experiences. Through a series of discussions of sharing data, sharing visuals, and getting them to understand that we are all moving towards the same goal. It’s that marketing brings a slightly different and unique perspective, which is that of the consumer, the brand, and what we stand for. Through that, we were able to convince, partner, and move the project forward.

You always hear the story of, “I brought data to the problem.” You brought the journey. The recordings of what people did and what other people did. That must have been eye-opening. I always make this joke because we are in the software business. We get compared to the iPhone. If it doesn’t work as easily as an app, people start getting dissonance. How did that lead to more creative ideas? What came about from people seeing it? It must have been revolutionary in their mind.

Marketing brings us a slightly different and unique perspective, which is that of the consumer.

It was eye-opening. We also supplemented that with some data like our demographics the demographics of our clients, and how that was going trending younger. We brought in exactly what you said. This is a generation that grew up with the iPhone as their go-to. The generation before that didn’t. This generation has certain expectations of their experience.

Having these conversations, bringing in real examples, and showing the data that supports these examples, such as the demographics helped us with the discourse. We were creative. We were able to create experiences that we won awards for. We had a lot of testimonials from our clients about how it made life easier for them and how they are now demanding the same of our competitors.

The numbers demonstrated that the usage numbers went up. We were also measuring analytics, such as how long it took a user to complete the task that he or she was on the website to do. Those numbers improved dramatically as well. We started also bringing in elements of creativity, such as gamifying some of our processes because we are catering to a different demographic that appreciates these types of creative vehicles. The results bore it out. We were on the right track. Transaction speed went up. Our usage and customer sat went up. It was a great and inspiring challenge in what could have been a boring process but nonetheless was an important touchpoint with our clients.

It’s amazing what people will do for a coin or an award badge.

Woman reviewing brand guidelines

Digital Problem: Our life is so cluttered as it is that if the experience we can have with a brand is a simple one and gets you where you need to be, that is an experience that would stand out.

It is amazing how people will brag about how many badges they got and you can’t monetize the badge. You are not going to get an award but it’s a matter of pride in it. It’s a generation that grew up with that mentality.

It’s a great story on the front end and clearly, on the back end, you had lots of results. Maybe we could spend a little time talking about how long did it take to come up with the solution? How did you all test it? How did you oftentimes people get in the middle of that and go, “This has taken forever, and getting it right is hard?” How did you navigate that process or that part of the process?

One thing we decided from the beginning was we were going to do this incrementally. We weren’t going to try to take it on the whole process. We said, “Let’s go to market with a term everybody is familiar with an MVP, and see how that works. Let’s start adding to it and going back, correcting and testing it.” It was an iterative process.

The motto we had was, “Think big, start small, scale fast.” That’s what we were doing. We were thinking big but we did not start big. We started small and that helped us it’s still evolving. Any digital tool and experience have to continue to evolve. You can’t set and forget it. You are going to try things and you’re going to get them wrong. You have to go back and fix those.

It is amazing how people will brag about how many badges they got, and you can’t really monetize the badge.

There’s always something new coming up. There are always new demands. For example, we had some clients say, “If you could move this process into a series of APIs, we might be able to take these APIs and integrate them into our system. People don’t have to go to your system to use it.” Yes, we did that. There’s always something new that we and our clients think of that enhances the experience. It’s not a set and forget it.

That’s great to hear how you connect it to the ecosystem. I try not to call it, getting it wrong. I talk about it as another way of learning, how to get it right because there is so much that happens. That’s a great journey. I have one surprise question for you now. If you could say one word about what do you think about digitally enabling brands and why? That will be our summary question for now? What’s the one word you think of when you think of digitally enabling?


Why do you think that?

I think that simple experiences, the lack of obscure unnecessary steps, our lives are cluttered as it is that if the experience we can have with a brand is a simple one, gets you to where you need to be. It’s simple. That is an experience that would stand out.

Riham, thanks for coming to the show. It’s pleasure. Thanks to everyone for tuning in.

Important Links

About Riham El-Lakany

Riham El-LakanyRiham El-Lakany is the senior vice president and chief marketing and communications officer (CMCO) for BJC HealthCare. As CMCO, Riham oversees BJC’s brand and market presence, executive and internal communications, digital strategies, customer experience, and media relations. She champions the BJC mission: “to improve the health and well-being of the people and communities we serve through leadership, education, innovation, and excellence in medicine,” by delivering marketing and communication strategies that position BJC HealthCare as an industry and community leader committed to service.

July 12, 2022 By Monigle