Applying Customer Experience (CX) to COVID19 vaccination: Understand your impact within the end-to-end experience ecosystem as strategic base for collaboration

04.08.21 03:19 PM By Hans Vanderwegen

Many EU countries have moved ahead successfully with their COVID19 vaccination program. My previous article explained how all interactions with businesses, products and services, always result in customer experiences. No matter what, actors simply do not have the option of doing something without leaving behind an experience on their company or brand. Customer experiences are simply always present. The only choice is the decision to manage or ignore these experiences. Understanding processes from a customer's point of view, opens the door to the creation of win-win situations for all involved stakeholders. The article illustrated this concept using examples of the current ongoing COVID19 vaccination programs.

The COVID19 vaccination period in the summer of 2021 is creating an impressive amount of experiences, and all of them are contributing in setting the stage for future vaccination business. Brands from involved stakeholders are resonating experiences to customers and patients from the day they become operational. Long before we get vaccinated, we start building up experiences, we start forming our opinions on stakeholders, we select our preferred solution providers, and we picture the vaccination process. In fact, we already know which parties to trust for business long before we get vaccinated. This is the power of customer experience management. A critical business process which can no longer be ignored in today's healthcare environment.

Some examples of events impacting our customer experience: issues with respect to the quality of the product (e.g. safety for specific populations, efficacy of the vaccines, production quality in plants, destruction of batches), decisions on handling group priorities (e.g. disappointing nurses and elderly people that couldn't be vaccinated as planned, preference for sporters and other high profile people), unreliable supply of Vx (e.g flow of changes in deliveries as result of overpromised capabilities), explicit and open public conflicts (e.g. between the EU commission and AstraZeneca widely available and discussed on TV stations), success and volunteering for local vaccination centres; issues in defining the processes and staff; new outbreaks of variants, hopes on re-opening businesses replaced by new lockdown measures; and an overwhelming series of communications and interactions on the vaccination program. The flow of events impacting customer experiences is significant. 

Those that questioned the value and contribution of customer experience management, will have more appreciation of the tremendous impact a well managed customer experience process could bring to businesses. When receiving my first vaccination, I personally was positively impressed to see how well the process was organised by the many volunteers in our town. They left me behind with a lasting memory forever. I took pictures, shared it with my friends and colleagues, and still talk positively to those that need to undergo their vaccination. As a little contributor in the process, I have provided free promotion for the government and manufacturers, without efforts from their end.

In this second post, I attempt to explain the role of the entire network in building up experiences. In order to manage customer experiences well, companies need to understand the specific impact of their brands in the entire end-to-end eco system, and use this as strategic base for setting up the right collaborations.

Concept 2: Understand your impact within the end-to-end experience eco system 

In setting up a solid customer experience program, companies must look at the entire end-to-end process and involve all stakeholders that are part of the customer's journey. A traditional journey goes through many phases: from discovery and evaluation to a buying decision, product use, maintenance and support via customer services. Within that journey, some events are more critical than others, some have intense customer interaction, others are only active in the background. The most critical touch points are called Moments of Truth (MOT). Those include direct actions that are visible to the customer, but could also include those behind the scenes, before, during and after the process. They also include those handled by your partners in the end-to end eco system. In designing and optimising the customer journey, this end-to-end view is critical to your success. Being customer driven does not stop when your sale is completed or when products are leaving your warehouse. End-to-end means that all eco partners are engaged and obsessed by the same customer-centricity as you are. Your last channel, e.g. delivery by an outsourced logistics partner, could simply screw up your entire customer experience. And influencing processes that you do not necessary control yourself is not always easy or possible.

"When delivering services and products to customers, companies are part of an entire network of partners, each contributing to the end-to-end process. To be successful, companies need to understand their role and impact in this eco-system and use it strategically for improving CX."

For life sciences, a typical chain includes suppliers, manufacturers, affiliates, distributors, transporters, governments, vx centra, hospitals, pharmacies, volunteers, care providers and patients. Over the last few months, many of the partners involved in the vaccination program have made their individual sales pitch. As they all contribute to a successful customer journey, it is important to understand each of their roles in the vaccination program. How to create a better experience by working with individual stakeholders from an end-to-end perspective? 

To keep the example simple, we could group the partners in this vaccination program as follows:

  • Government: responsible for all information on the vaccination, the program coordination and group prioritisation, the selection and set up of the Vx centres, closing contracts with manufacturers, selecting service partners and volunteers, integration of data with systems, closing feedback loops
  • Vx manufacturers, subcontractors and distributors: manufacturing, distribution and supply of all vaccines including all necessary components such as syringes, needles, logistics, labelling, etc at the right time, quality and location for use by providers - many stakeholders are touching the product
  • Vx centra: all first care zones, vx centres, hospitals and care centres in which nurses, pharmacists, MDs, coordinators and volunteers are working directly with the patients - direct interactions with customers that use products and information elements from the above partners

When implementing CXM, each of the stakeholders must understand their own and their partner's impact within the eco system before deciding how to improve their part of the customer experience. The knowledge from the patient view and requirements, helps in modelling their specific part of the end-to-end patient journey. That journey should take into account those parts relevant for their own business, and the contribution from and to all other end-to-end stakeholders. This approach enforces companies to better integrate the process impact they will, could, and want to have in relation to other partners, and certainly customers and patients. An analysis which is the strategic base to improve the management of the customer experiences generated by themselves, complemented by opportunities to leverage, collaborate or disrupt experiences from others. This holds for the patient journey, and HCP customer journeys, for each of their businesses. 

To push down healthcare costs and to re-initiate the economics of businesses within their country, governments must reach a high level of vaccination and ensure citizen's are vaccinated twice, on time according to the product requirements. The faster they achieve targeted vaccination levels, the faster the impact on the numbers, the better the economics and the image within Europe. Vaccination programs and results, will even have an impact on political votes in the next election. This vaccination program is a unique opportunity for the government to create a long and lasting impact to each individual citizen, leveraging from the success of products and services developed by the industry, as partners together. An excellent experience is contributing to positive worth-of-mouth as citizens will convince their relatives to get vaccinated. A smooth Vx process needs to meet up the citizen's expectations. Governments need to communicate well long before individual vaccinations are taking place, the process itself needs to run well and be reliable, re-bookings and second vaccinations included. To create excellent experiences, governments can't go ahead without support of manufacturers, distributors, nurses, and thousands of volunteers that are active in the centres each single day. Understanding how actions from end-to-end partners impact the overall customer experience is critical for their own success. Working with manufacturers to secure the right volumes of vaccines is an example of such collaboration: failing to do so creates a negative impact to the government, blaming the manufacturer in case of issues makes your own failure even worse. What might look as a short term win, will soon become a long term loss.

For manufacturers, subcontractors and distributors, the same end-to-end understanding is important. Their image for future business and products is at stake. While they certainly will have significant revenue uplift, the risks of failure are also present. Compare today's image put forward by Pfizer and Moderna as leading Vx manufacturers over the followers such as JnJ, Astra Zeneca or failures such as GSK, Sanofi and Merck. Look at the impact on financial stocks and promotions for all of their brands. The expectations for all future vaccinations, beyond COVID19, are being defined. Set as memories in stone. Excellent experiences are created when manufacturers provide correct product information, ensure reliable supply, solid planning, stick to correct vaccines deliveries, are not favouring countries or populations, are transparent about side effects. Have you also noticed how most of the successful manufacturers have chosen not to promote the product, but to brand their company name as being the product. Often patients simply do not know how the product is called, and only remember the manufacturer's name. The impact of the choice is significant: which company would you prefer for any other future product and why? Would you be inclined to use other products from the same company? The way the information on these companies is managed by the governments is critical and could have a very strong impact. On a positive note, all politicians refer to company names, secure the branding, and use the manufacturers to celebrate their success. On a negative note, remember the price disclosures from the EU Commission for each of the vaccines and the impact it created in Europe? The same is happening with the revised prices for future deliveries. Negative promotion. This vaccination program is an unique opportunity for manufacturers and their supply partners to create a lasting experience to each individual patient, not only for their Vx products, but for their full product portfolio. The impact that other partners, such as the government, have on that experience is significant.

Finally, also for the third group in our example, understanding the end-to-end process is critical in building the right customer experiences. From all of the stakeholders, this group has the closest interaction level with the patients. They are managing the Moments of Truth with the customers. The thousands of volunteers are the key actors in the success of the government and the manufacturers. Is vaccination painful or joyful? Does it take long? Is it safe? Is it a smooth process? Did you loose a lot of time? Could you bypass the rows? Could you bypass the procedures and get some relatives in faster? Volunteers, nurses, pharmacists, medical doctors and coordinators are all creating the direct experiences with patients, now and for future vaccination activities. These healthcare providers are using the COVID19 vaccination to build strong patient relationships. They can use these relationships to potentially change and question some of the current vaccination processes in the next couple of years. They are well placed to capture feedback, and to understand if patients are happy and satisfied with the product, the service and the process. Will they recommend it to friends, will they continue vaccinations in the future? What can be done to optimise the process? A source of relevant information for all stakeholders in the end-to-end eco system. In most of the current vaccination programs, this information is not captured and reflects a real missed opportunity. If partners would have collaborated well they could have used this option to help in defining improved CXM actions for governments and manufacturers. Vice versa, being able to leverage from their role in the vaccination program, healthcare providers such as pharmacists could fundamentally change some of the current processes for other vaccines. Maybe in the future, also pharmacists could finally be allowed to serve their patients directly as opposed to only selling the products and sending them back to the medical doctors.

"Companies aiming to create improved customer experiences, must seek to understand the end-to-end journey of the customer. For healthcare, this means working across the entire experience eco-system towards the patient, before, during and after the product or service is being used."

To conclude, none of the partners can create the most optimal customer experience without understanding the impact of all end-to-end stakeholders. Any of the partners can grow or fail as a result of others. By focussing on their own part of the process, many improvement opportunities are missed. All parties must work with their end-to-end partners in obtaining the best possible experiences. If the government initiates the vaccination and supply is lacking, both governments and manufacturers are getting negative feedback. If prices from vaccines are made public by governments, manufacturers are being critiqued. If nurses don't follow administration procedures as described, products will not be effective as expected, patients will not return and governments will not achieve the results. Companies that want to create an excellent customer experience, must understand the end-to-end journey of the customer. For healthcare, this means working across the entire experience eco system, from clinical to commercial, towards the patient, before, during and after products and services are being used. Understanding your role in this journey is the necessary baseline to start defining an optimal CXM strategy. Influencing processes that you do not necessary control yourself is not always easy or possible. In my next post we will discuss how to overcome this hurdle.

To recap the first 2 concepts from my blog: 

#1. confirm the experiences from the customer's point of view

#2. understand your impact in the end-to-end eco system before setting your CXM strategy

Thanks. Stay connected for more.

Hans Vanderwegen