Understand the Future Customer Journey

I remember speaking at a conference in Brisbane to a group of CEOs of private hospitals about the future of healthcare. These are smart, savvy, experienced people who know healthcare is changing, know they need to change as well, but don’t know exactly what to do.

But I know some of them were taken aback when I said:

“The future of healthcare is not in hospitals.”

Even if you’re open to change (and these CEOs are), that’s still a confronting statement if most of your role involves building and leading a successful hospital!

The following week, I said something similar to leaders at a banking conference:

“The future of banking is not in banks.”

But I firmly believe it’s true!

The future of healthcare is not in hospitals.
And the future of banking is not in banks.
Just as the future of education is not in schools.
And the future of retail is not in shops.

To understand the future of healthcare, banking, education, or retail, don’t start with hospitals, banks, schools, and shops. Those are just the way those industries served their industries in the past. The future might include them, but not necessarily.

The future of healthcare is in patients.
The future of banking is in customers.
The future of education is in students.
The future of retail is in shoppers.

In other words, the future is understanding the people you serve: patients, customers, students, clients, shoppers, whoever.

That healthcare conference was before the pandemic, and COVID-19 has only driven home this point stronger than ever. We’ve seen telehealth without hospitals, online banking without banks, home schooling when schools were closed, and online shopping without stores.

It’s too easy to fall in love with your products, services, systems, processes, and solutions. But remember these should all be solving problems for your customers. If they aren’t, you’ll soon be obsolete.

Understand your future customer’s journey.

You don’t know exactly how customers will behave in the future, but you can map your current customer’s journey, and then consider the impact of technology, trends, and other external changes at each step.

Here’s a healthcare example I shared with those CEOs …

Imagine a cardiologist who treats patients who suffer a heart attack. Her customer’s journey might start from the time the ambulance receives the emergency call and rushes the patient to the emergency room. She then performs the surgery, the patient leaves hospital, and constant monitoring happens over time.

Imagine how this customer journey might change in the future:

  • A self-driving ambulance collects the patient. Because all traffic is self-driving, other vehicles automatically stop to let the emergency vehicle through.
  • The patient’s wearables transmit data wirelessly to artificial intelligence software that combines this data from that of thousands of other patients to make a diagnosis.
  • A 3D printer in the ambulance prints a stent for the operation, customised for this patient.
  • Medical supplies are delivered by an autonomous drone, so the hospital doesn’t have to store and manage inventory.
  • After surgery, the patient uses an ECG app on their phone (or even their Fitbit or Apple Watch) to monitor their heart and alert the cardiologist of any potential problems.

All this technology exists now, even if it’s not connected in this way – yet.

A forward-thinking cardiologist, hospital CEO, and anybody else involved in the current version of this journey would consider the impact of these technologies on their “customer’s” journey. Even if some of them are further away than others, they are worth including in the mix now, and then deciding whether you need to address them immediately.

This exercise doesn’t guarantee you will fully anticipate everything in the future customer’s journey, but it’s a good start.

Thinking Ahead

Ask these three questions to help you get fit for the future:

  1. Are you already mapping your customer’s journey, so you can identify how to enhance their experience?
  2. What new technology or trends could have a significant impact on the steps in your future customer’s journey?
  3. What seemingly-impossible things could so radically transform the customer’s journey that they could make you, your organization, or your industry obsolete?



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