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How to bolster customer loyalty? BayCare has the blueprint.

Leaders at BayCare wanted to design a program to secure and cultivate loyalty among their customers. Their solution was BayCare EasyPass TM, a special loyalty program for recurring customers of the organization.

By any measure, EasyPass has been a success. It has increased NPS scores, multiplied email click-through rates, improved brand recognition, and most importantly, encouraged BayCare’s customers to return to the system for whatever care they need.

How did BayCare’s leadership achieve this? What goes into an effective loyalty program? And how might other health systems implement one of their own?

In a presentation at this year’s NRC Health Symposium, key members of BayCare’s leadership revealed the secrets to their organization’s success.

Brian Curtiss, BayCare’s System Marketing Director, and Special Projects Strategist Reid Yoder shared what their organization learned while developing this groundbreaking program. Here are some of the highlights.

How to measure loyalty

Most healthcare leaders understand that consumer loyalty is profoundly important for health-system performance. What’s less clear, however, is how to measure it.

BayCare’s leaders confronted this question of measurement when they started to design their loyalty program. They learned that traditional measures of consumer loyalty don’t always function in healthcare.

“That’s because loyalty in healthcare isn’t usually based upon experience with health care systems,” Curtiss explains. “It’s the providers with whom we have a special relationship.”

In other industries, measuring loyalty is relatively straightforward. High numbers related to “sales per customer” or “visit frequency” are signs of a flourishing business. But in healthcare, repeated visits aren’t usually a good thing. Too many recurring visits might indicate that something has gone profoundly wrong in the patient’s care.

BayCare leadership concluded that they would focus on two primary indicators of loyalty success: Net Promoter Score (NPS), and Lifetime Value (LTV).

Unlike other yardsticks for loyalty, these are robust, validated measures that do not conflict with clinical outcomes.

Why a loyalty program?

With two outcome metrics decided on, it was now time to create an intervention to elevate them. How should BayCare increase NPS and LTV among its customers? Through custom surveys , BayCare’s leadership quickly discovered an answer.

The surveys explored consumer sentiment about BayCare’s services. A clear consensus emerged: while BayCare’s clinical care was excellent, customers were also overwhelmed with the organization’s complexity.

“Our customers told us they felt confused,” Curtiss says. “And immediately we centered on that as a pretty big problem to solve.”

BayCare’s customers wanted easy online scheduling. They wanted assistance with care navigation. And most of all, they wanted a care experience that felt personalized for them.

Firm foundations

With this feedback data in hand, a loyalty program became the obvious solution. It was a tidy way to offer everything BayCare’s customers were asking for. But Curtiss and his team wanted to be sure there would be no missteps in deploying it.

“To make EasyPass work, we wanted to be very methodical, very careful in how we did this,” he says.

Creating EasyPass was no small undertaking. Here are the critical steps that Yoder and Curtiss recommend, for any organization hoping to follow BayCare’s blueprint.

Get C-suite buy-in

Curtiss and Yoder urged the importance of involving executive leadership from the get-go. In the case of BayCare, early enthusiasm from the C-suite cleared away a lot of potential obstacles.

“To our surprise, [executive leaders] felt that this was a really important, valuable project, given the competitive environment that we’re in,” Curtiss says.

Do your research

Before they even began, Curtiss and Yoder wanted to validate their idea. So they decided to test it.

First they interviewed internal stakeholders to field ideas for the program. This included a wide spectrum of staff—from finance, to operations, to senior leadership.

Then the team conducted interviews with consumers. Using a combination of NRC Health data, internal resources, and other externally sourced research, the team was able to get some hard numbers to support EasyPass’s development. These efforts together helped give shape to the program’s first iteration.

Design a small pilot first

Finally, to minimize the risk of the rollout going wrong, the team decided to create an MVP (minimum viable product) version of their idea.

This would be a stripped-down form of what the team initially envisioned, restricted to BayCare’s primary-care customers.

The primary-care pilot

In describing the MVP pilot program, Reid Yoder has a single watchword: simplicity.

“The whole concept of simplicity is about ease of navigation, the removal of barriers,” Yoder says. “We wanted this to be as easy as possible.”

To start with, BayCare enrolled customers from a select group of its affiliated physician practices. They emphasized a frictionless environment, an opt-in-only invitation, and a $15 gift-card incentive to drive enrollments.

Once a meaningful percentage of patients signed up (around 7% of the total BayCare customer population), the team was able to assess how the EasyPass performed. They took stock of the program’s value along four different axes:

1) Per capita usage of BayCare services—The program produced an 8% increase in the number of users who visit BayCare for more than two services. (And perhaps as importantly, it decreased the likelihood of visits to the emergency department, in favor of outpatient/primary care.)

2) Patient satisfaction—EasyPass users’ NPS scores hovered steadily around 60, which indicates a strong performance in the healthcare industry.

3) Engagement—EasyPass bolstered email open-rates from 13% to 38%, and click-through rates from 0 to 9.4%.

4) ROI—The EasyPass pilot was handily revenue-positive for BayCare.

Expansion and improvement

After such a strong performance, it was obvious to BayCare’s leadership that the EasyPass program should be expanded.

For the second phase of the program, they chose BayCare’s OB service line, with the goal of capturing the enduring loyalty of expectant mothers. They called it EasyPass for Moms.

“The OB journey for patients can be extremely daunting,” Yoder says. “It’s a complicated timeline, with lots of checkups and appointments to remember. That made it a great opportunity for EasyPass to simplify.”

Enrollment and incentives processes were similar to those of the pilot. But the program itself was much more comprehensive.

The team set out to fashion the EasyPass into an emotionally resonant experience for the mothers among BayCare’s customer base. The idea was to cultivate a meaningful attachment to the brand—a long-term, two-way relationship between patient and provider.

Results in the hospital pilot were even more encouraging:

620+ members enrolled

– The program garnered an average NPS score of 69

78% of members offered additional data in exchange for higher levels of EasyPass benefits

– Email open-rates multiplied by three times

A full 38% of participants turned to BayCare for the entirety of their maternity journey, from initial screenings to delivery day

Moving forward

“These were eye-opening for us,” Yoder says of the results. “Through EasyPass, we’re increasing our brand awareness and loyalty. The numbers keep climbing. We want EasyPass to grow along with them.”

For now, the leadership team has two goals for EasyPass: to expand the program to other high-friction domains within BayCare’s service lines, and to make interactions with EasyPass—and with BayCare in general—feel more personal, meaningful, and satisfying.

That, Yoder believes, is really the fundamental purpose of health-system marketing.

“I myself believe, and I know Brian believes, that marketing is the practice of satisfying consumers’ and patients’ needs—nothing more or less,” he says.

It’s an important closing thought, for any health systems that might share BayCare’s ambitions.

This is just a sampling of what attendees learned at this year’s NRC Health symposium.