I often get asked the question about how I made the transition from architect to business. The turning point was two projects I did. One was a visioning and architectural planning project for an Indian tribe that was using casino profits to buy back their tribal lands. The other was a sales process analysis for an architect I knew. He (and his father before him) had run a successful architecture firm for over 50 years. Over the past few years, their sales close rate had dropped. Not significantly, but enough to cause concern.
We worked together to identify a series of questions and then I interviewed his prospects in 3 buckets: (1) repeat buyers; (2) one-time buyers; and (3) those that never bought. It was a fascinating process. They all loved the fact that the firm cared enough to ask. And, they provided lots of information. In the end, it was a small thing – their architectural awards. It appeared that prospects correlated awards with expensive projects that were more about the firm and less about their needs. We simply downplayed these, and his sales close rate went back up. (If only all projects were so straightforward.)
Now, almost 15 years later, they still use the process. It got me thinking about healthcare. How often do we reach out to the patient to learn about their behavior? Do we really understand them at more than a macro level? With the technology available today to personalize communications or even benefits, shouldn’t this be a big focus. If I can developed personalized medicines based on my genes, I would think companies could figure out a way of developing personalized insurance plans that are based on my family history, recent claims, and predictors of future claims.
As I thought more about this, it reminded me of a question that someone asked me last month. They basically said “if you see a company is doing something really wrong, do you just come out and tell them how stupid they are?” What a great question? This gets to the heart of so many things. In a big company, politics often limits your ability to be brutally direct. As a sales person or consultant, you often have the issue of impacting future sales. As a peer, you have the issue of alienating someone or hurting someone on your team.
Good or bad. I have made this mistake too many times. I simply prefer to point out the obvious. When I was a teaching assistant, I remember telling a student in architecture school that he should find a new major. In consulting, I remember pointing out to a managed care CEO that he was never going to have an effective Internet strategy if he couldn’t even use a computer. I have had people ask me numerous times to give them feedback on presentations. I love to present so I have a high bar which often leaves me giving a lot of negatives (which are only meant to help grow the individual). [A good, but annoying, tool here is to drop a penny into a tin can every time the person says the word “um” so that they can break that habit.]
Anyways, bringing this all back…How do we get patients to trust healthcare companies and providers enough to give us valuable, direct feedback to improve our business. And, how do we engage the patients to create an ongoing dialogue to improve.