Enabling access to healthcare for millions of people each day is no small feat. A handful of companies around the world make it possible for crucial medications and supplies to reach their destinations – including hospitals, pharmacies and physicians – efficiently, reliably and securely. Not surprisingly, this is an operation which requires extensive planning and coordination.
These companies form the backbone of the health care supply chain: it is a responsibility they take very seriously. Our client – powered by more than 15,000 front-line associates around the world – had been doing this work well for decades. As often happens, success bred success.
Having completed a series of major acquisitions in recent years, the company’s revenues topped $125 billion. Headcount, too, had grown quickly. With scale came – inevitably – complexity. Most customers needed to do business with more than one entity to meet their supply needs. The constellation of sister companies that had formed as a result of the acquisitions operated largely independently, employing different systems and processes, especially in relation to customer onboarding. Associates worked diligently with customers to ensure needs were met, and the company was continuing to outperform its competitors. Still, there had to be a better way.
The much-admired CEO had recently announced an imperative to drive the company to operate more cohesively. His call to action resonated with employees across the organization, including the SVP of Customer Operations. New to her role but not to the company, she knew that a superior customer onboarding process could be pivotal in differentiating the company from competitors, and in accelerating financial and operational performance.
The company had tried to revamp onboarding several times in years past using high-quality internal resources but had struggled to gain traction. Undaunted by this history and energized by the new call to action, this operations executive – a change catalyst known for inspiring others at the company to strive for excellence – set out to transform the customer onboarding process, with Navigate as co-pilot.
Within a few months, the team was already making inroads in improving the onboarding process with a distinct and significant segment of its customer base. In time, the evidence of transformation was irrefutable. At last count, total time to onboard these new customers had decreased by 24%. Customer satisfaction measures had risen 36%. And, streamlining communications and workflows had resulted in a 37% reduction in work effort.
The journey, however, was far from complete. This team was just getting started. These early results not only made the case for further transformation efforts, but also demonstrated that the team had hit on the right formula to elevate the customer experience inside this large, complex organization. How did they get there? The essential elements included the following:
Customer operations employees always had customers in mind; they were dedicated to helping them through various processes, including onboarding and order placement. Customer-focused? Yes. Customer-centric? Not yet. Fortunately, it was a challenge familiar to Navigate from prior customer experience engagements. To set this process in motion, the Navigate team employed human-centered design techniques to conduct 40 interviews to help the customer operations team gain fresh perspective on the onboarding experience. The effort yielded a new, broader view of the onboarding lifecycle, fundamentally shifting the direction and nature of the team’s transformation efforts.
Everyone understood that employee buy-in would be pivotal to the transformation effort. With thousands of employees touching the onboarding process in one way or another, this would be a major undertaking. The team achieved buy-in by putting the voice of the customer at the center of every conversation. Asked to reflect on this first phase of the work, the SVP of Customer Operations characterized it this way: “Once people understood that the customer perspective and experience would be our guiding light, it unlocked an openness to change at all levels of the organization.”
Revamping onboarding for all customer types at once would almost certainly guarantee a transformation failure. Elaborate, multi-year plans, and immediate investments in shiny new technology? Also off the table. The team focused instead on shortening – and simplifying – the process to onboard one large, high-value segment of the customer base. Efforts were centered around co-designing solutions to generate operational efficiencies, improvements to the organizational structure, and securing quick wins, all with no net new resource requirements. To avoid disruption, solutions were piloted with a small group before any consideration of full rollout. The approach enabled rapid learning, minimized risk and built confidence with key stakeholders.
Early findings made clear that changes to organizational design would equip associates to deliver a better customer onboarding experience. Navigate team members worked shoulder-to-shoulder with the company’s Senior Director of Customer Integration and Data Management and his team to design, pilot and roll out a new model using the concept of “Agile pods.” The integrated team approach combined separate functions with similar purposes, streamlined intake, enabled effective triage and simplified workflows.
Common goal, different roles. Once the overall transformation strategy was agreed, Navigate – already embedded in the company by that point – began functioning in what the Senior Director of Customer Integration and Data Management referred to as a “SWAT team” capacity. The arrangement provided critical leverage in his role leading onboarding across the company. His prior experiences with consultants consisted of receiving an elaborately mapped strategy, the basics of an implementation plan, and then… not much else. He would often describe his experience with Navigate as “refreshingly different”, noting the team’s ability to work – sleeves rolled up – with employees to drive measurable improvements, and with other outside partners, collaborating instead of competing, to achieve great outcomes for the business.
The organization had completed the first leg of its onboarding transformation journey. Subsequent efforts are well underway, with Navigate continuing as a partner. Kristin Reagle, Principal at Navigate, explains: “The best customer experience transformations really are a journey. Once you dig into improving one aspect of the experience, you inevitably uncover even more opportunities. Our client fostered a customer-centric approach across the organization which enabled great early results and opened the door to many more successes.”
The team’s specific areas of focus have evolved, but the underlying philosophy and approach to transforming the customer experience remains the same. Winning hearts and minds? Every day. Because this would continue to set up the ability to change minds – to change behaviors – to change the business. And, ultimately, to better meet the needs of customers and their patients around the world.