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Case Study | Health Care Retailer

The Journey to Cultural Fluency:
Using Culture to Connect Effectively and Efficiently Across Consumer Segments

CHALLENGE

Like many businesses, a national health care retailer recognized the dynamic transformation underway in American culture.

In 2020, the combination of the social justice movement and the COVID pandemic hit home especially hard, with so many of the retailer’s staff on the front lines. Across the enterprise, they took action, reflecting a deeper commitment to honoring America’s culturally diverse voices.

For the health care retailer’s Enterprise Insights team, they recognized a one-time investment in a research project or consultant was not enough. As the needs of the organization and of the consumer change too quickly, the company needed the support of a long-term partner.

Objectives:

• Align around best practice multicultural research standards and ensure Culturally Fluent research is practiced across the enterprise.

• Socialize culturally sensitive approaches to multicultural insights, to enable diversity, inclusion and marketing performance.

• Stay nimble to the organization’s emerging educational needs, and quickly hone-in on high-impact research opportunities as they emerge.

SOLUTION

Collage Group designed a partnership solution for the health care retailer, leveraging a suite of research products and nimble service models, which included:

  1.  Access to the Multicultural consumer research platform, for regular outputs of research on trends across culture into Hispanic, Black and Asian consumers.
  2.  Expert support via “SME-Hours”, which includes access to in-cultural subject matter experts, seasoned marketing consultants, and research professionals to address ad hoc needs.
  3.  Custom Research & Consulting Credits applied to “Black American Learning Series” for the staff, to educate and elevate the experience and voices of Black Americans specifically.

RESULT

Insights gleaned from the health care retailer's partnership with Collage are now applied across the company, including in events sponsored by Chief Diversity Officer and Senior Vice President of Workforce Strategies, its diversity team, in ads produced by its marketing team, and via in-store initiatives to ensure the company's customers and staff are treated fairly and equitably.

Through the approach, the health care retailer made progress in five areas. These included:

1. Achievement of a higher return from the partnership than from comparable alternatives.

Collage Group enables the health care retailer to stay tapped into needed, timely cultural insights into all major segments. According to the company, the partnership far exceeds returns from hiring a temporary in-house research lead or from returns on a single custom project (which might be perceived as one-time “check-the-box” approach that ultimately implies little commitment to lasting change).

2.  Improvement in advertising effectiveness.

The healthcare retailer applied a CultureRate:Ad report included as part of membership to evaluate the Cultural Fluency Quotient of a recent Spanish-language pharmacy execution. According to the company, The CultureRate:Ad reporting provided deep insight into the drivers of Cultural Fluency across racial/ethnic groups. The learnings helped the retailer understand cultural nuances so they could take the action needed to produce more inclusive advertising.

3.  Increased empathy with Black consumers across the entire Marketing organization.

The health care retailer hosted a Black Immersion Day with a variety of speakers to more deeply educate and energize their team. The Session featured Zekeera Belton, a Collage Group executive and Black Consumer SME, to both keynote and close the session. Zekeera layered in her personal experience to bring to life Collage Group’s rigorous data on the Cultural Traits of Black Consumers. As the main event during Immersion Day, the company reports that Zekeera’s presentation also motivated deeper use of insights recently provided by Collage Group’s Custom Solutions team a few weeks prior to the event.

4.  Update to all internal research methodologies and processes to ensure Cultural Fluency.

With over 10+ years of experience conducting research among diverse and hard-to-reach consumer segments, Collage Group has developed a robust array of Multicultural Research Best Practices. In close collaboration with the health care retailer, Collage Group SMEs outlined and presented key learnings in conducting Multicultural Research to research groups across the enterprise. The company has adopted learnings from these presentations and continues to push thought-leadership in emerging research methodologies and best practices to ensure culturally inclusive learnings across all engagements.

5.  Improvement in customer experience in retail operations. the company indicates that their leaders are now talking more regularly with colleagues in stores through a “colleague advisor panel” that connects leadership to frontline staff.

The company has now elevated a discussion of discrimination, where in-store staff see it most, and how issues appear in call-center operations. A new company “Bill of Rights” will now be posted in stores on how staff and customers should be treated.

Measuring the Cultural Fluency of Health Care Brands

Our recent CultureRate:Brand study tested the cultural resonance of 18 healthcare brands.

One of our key findings from this study is that many health insurance companies fail to resonate with multiple cultural segments. In fact, of the six health insurance brands we tested, five did not resonate with any of the four core segments (Hispanic, Black, Asian, and non-Hispanic White).

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This struggle to resonate is likely because people don’t necessarily feel a personal connection to health insurance brands the way they do with other categories such as food. In addition, since CultureRate:Brand studies survey the New Wave of consumers (ages 18-39), these survey respondents are young and have less experience with health insurance. Many of them, if they are under the age of 26, may still be on their parents’ plan. Or these young consumers may not have health insurance at all because they feel healthy and invincible. They haven’t had an opportunity to build trust and relationships with providers over time. Health insurance brands aren’t alone here. In previous CultureRate:Brand research in the Telecom and financial services spaces we also saw a struggle to resonate. This doesn’t mean it’s impossible to capture people, but rather that you need to be thoughtful and strategic about how you move forward.

So how can healthcare brands build connections and increase resonance with New Wavers across cultural segments?

The best place to start is looking at your B-CFQ component scores to see where the opportunities to improve are easiest to achieve. Take, for example, Alka-Seltzer. Alka-Seltzer received a cultural reach score of 1.

 As you can see in the chart below, White and acculturated Hispanic consumers ranked Alka-Seltzer around average for most of the components, while Black and Asian consumers rated the brand below average for most of the six components.

On the other hand, bicultural and unacculturated Hispanic consumers rated Alka-Seltzer strongly above average across the board. Bayer, which owns Alka-Seltzer, has been focused on marketing Alka-Seltzer in Latin American countries since at least the 1980s. In the late 1990s, Bayer partnered with a Hispanic advertising agency to develop a culturally specific campaign, in the Spanish language, which included TV, radio, and print ads to demonstrate the relevance and fit of the brand. Clearly this strategy has worked! Alka-Seltzer has gained a sort of cult following among Hispanic families as a cure for all types of ailments.  People share memes in Spanish showing, for example, a doctor prescribing a patient who is sick in bed to drink a soda with Alka-Seltzer.

One component where Alka-Seltzer did really well – around or above average with five out of the six segments – is strong brand trust. Even if it’s not a consumer’s preferred brand, or they don’t have great memories associated with it, they still trust that it’s a reliable product that will do its job if they need it. These high scores are good news for the brand, which can use these positives to offset some of the areas where they performed less well, such as brand values or willingness to be a brand advocate. These findings reveal opportunities and some next steps to further connect the brand with these segments: focus on what they value and what they need from insurance policies in the messaging, partner with relevant influencers to increase trust and brand-buzz, and then give them a reason to talk about the brand.

 

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Pulse Check on Multicultural Health Care Consumers
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Multicultural and generationally diverse Americans express unique health-related values, preferences, and desires.

These include valuing health insurance for different reasons, preferring specific types of benefits over others, desiring health care providers that understand and respect their culture and background, and leaning on different resources when experiencing health issues and seeking support.

Health care organizations—payers, providers, and related companies—need to understand the many ways multicultural and generationally diverse consumers differ in order to successfully capture their attention through marketing, provide products and services that ensure they will remain “brand” loyal, and manage their care in a way that leads to optimal health outcomes. Our research provides insight into diverse health care consumers from five angles:

1. How do consumers choose a health insurance plan?

2. How well do consumers understand their health insurance plans?

3. How do consumers select a health care provider?

4. How do consumers make medical decisions?

5. How do consumers engage in health outside the clinic setting?

Below are two key insights and action steps to aid your strategy to engage with and win-over multicultural health care consumers:

1. Populations that may have immigrated more recently – Unacculturated Hispanic and Asian Americans – are the least likely to understand their insurance plans. Double down on providing resources for segments who may have language barriers or a general lack of understanding of the U.S. health care system.

2. While most people prefer to communicate with their health insurer by phone, multicultural and younger consumers are most likely to utilize digital channels. Make sure live CSR’s are available to assist over the phone with plan-specific questions, and continue to market your digital channels, focusing on their value and ease of use, to realize the efficiency they offer.

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Optimize Digital Services in the Health Care Space
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Health care costs are high and rising. And many health care companies are leaning on digital services to reduce costs while improving customer satisfaction. To fully realize these benefits, companies need to understand the relevant attitudes and preferences of both multicultural and generational consumers.

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The cost of health care is a top concern, not only for patients, but for providers, insurers, and vendors too. As a result, organizations and companies working in the health care space are constantly pressed to produce better outcomes on tightening budgets. Tighter margins and the need for change is giving rise to technological innovations that reduce costs.

We’re already seeing digital service innovations take hold in this space: online and mobile platforms to manage health care and insurance plans, virtual visits, and apps and wearable tech to monitor health. These services offer clear efficiencies that translate into hard dollars for health care companies including

  1. Reduced administrative staff
  2. Improved consumer satisfaction
  3. Opportunity to leverage collected data

The cost of health care is a top concern, not only for patients, but for providers, insurers, and vendors too. As a result, organizations and companies working in the health care space are constantly pressed to produce better outcomes on tightening budgets. Tighter margins and the need for change is giving rise to technological innovations that reduce costs.

We’re already seeing digital service innovations take hold in this space: online and mobile platforms to manage health care and insurance plans, virtual visits, and apps and wearable tech to monitor health. These services offer clear efficiencies that translate into hard dollars for health care companies including

  1. Reduced administrative staff
  2. Improved consumer satisfaction
  3. Opportunity to leverage collected data

But to fully realize these efficiencies, organizations need to drive mass utilization of their digital services. This is where marketing and branding have a huge role to play—driving digital service utilization among consumers.  And to do this right, companies need to understand the attitudes, preferences, and behaviors of diverse consumer segments to know how to capture their attention and drive utilization.

In late 2019, we spoke with our membership to understand their most pressing questions about complex digital services in the health care space. We heard the same three questions asked time and again, across health care vendors, providers, and insurers:

  1. Why don’t people use their health insurer’s digital platforms?
  2. What do people want from their digital platform?
  3. What are the emerging trends in health care digital services?

To answer these questions from both the multicultural and generational lens, we conducted a nationally representative survey this January with 2,442 respondents. We over-sampled consumers of older age groups so that we could analyze data with added precision for the Boomer+ generation. We also over-sampled the Hispanic segment across acculturation levels.

Strategic takeaways from our research include:

  1. The top reason consumers don’t use their health insurer’s website or app is that they think it’s unnecessary. They’re used to communicating in other ways, like over the phone. Clearly show them how using digital services will make their lives easier.
  2. People most want to learn about health care topics from online sources. Engage consumers with captivating online media that’s informative and connects them with your services.
  3. Younger and multicultural consumers are the most interested in virtual visits, but they’re also among the most skeptical of the quality of care. Put virtual offerings front and center, and make sure to convey the standards that ensure a high-quality visit.

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