Everyone over age 16 in the United States as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia is now eligible for a coronavirus vaccine. Yet for many, the vaccination experience journey is still broken and confusing. What’s more, consumers will most likely need to repeat the vaccination process next year whether it’s to receive a new dose or a booster shot.
In a recent Drug Store News (DSN) webinar, “Leveraging Messaging and AI to Deliver an Effortless Vaccination Experience” customer experience experts Paul Ignasinski of TTEC and Adam Canter of LivePerson explained how retail pharmacies and healthcare providers can deliver an efficient, proactive, customer-friendly vaccination experience by utilizing the same messaging channels their customers use to talk to friends and family.
Solving the pain points with messaging
While the process for making a COVID-19 vaccine appointment and receiving the shots is improving, it has been largely marked by confusion and frustration. Many consumers have been confused about where and how to sign up for an appointment and frustrated when few slots were available.
“When we think of the ideal vaccine experience, it needs to be built to scale,” Ignasinski said. It’s about generating proactive awareness of the vaccine, reaching people where they are, providing consistent information, and making it easy for consumers to get answers to their questions, he continued.
Mobile messaging is an ideal solution given that many consumers are already comfortable communicating via SMS or on a messaging app, agreed Canter. And rather than wait on hold, consumers welcome the opportunity to quickly get their questions answered over messaging. “Some of the ways pharmacies solve this [overwhelmed phone lines] is after intent has been detected, such as ‘press 5 for vaccine info’ they automatically send the consumer into a messaging experience,” he said. As a result, the phone lines are freed up and consumers receive faster support.
Canter also shared a few best practices for adding messaging to a brand’s channel mix:
- Save time with automation – Use automation to proactively answer questions that consumers may have about messaging and what to expect from the vaccine appointment.
- Leverage messaging FAQs – For people who are not familiar with communicating with brands via text, provide messaging FAQs across all of a brand’s digital properties as well as a short explanation on the IVR system.
- Don’t try to do everything at once – It’s not necessary to roll out a full-featured messaging suite at once. Start with one feature, such as IVR deflection, and add more features as consumers get comfortable.
Plan for a long-term solution
More and more vaccine experts, scientists, and public health officials are warning that the COVID-19 vaccine is not a one-time event. “We don’t see this as a 2021 exercise, COVID will be with us for a while.” Ignasinski noted. As a result, he added, retail pharmacies and healthcare organizations will “need a longer-term solution to get the experience right.”
A long-term approach to administering the COVID-19 vaccine could look like the flexible approach that pharmacies use for a seasonal flu vaccine. During the off-season, pharmacies could focus on awareness and education, and ramp up on staff when it’s time to administer the vaccine. Healthcare organizations should plan their support around different types of intent, Canter said. “Just like in the summer, there’s lots of intent on when is flu season? Followed by, should I book my flu shot now?”
Delivering a smooth and effortless vaccine experience is also essential for driving customer loyalty, Ignasinski added. Especially at a time when consumers have been experimenting with new brands and channels, it’s imperative that pharmacies and other healthcare organizations solve their customer experience issues before a competitor swoops in.
Indeed, retail pharmacies are “becoming less and less transactional,” said DSN Publisher John Kanlon, who moderated the webinar. “Healthcare services are becoming a bigger part of it and what do people want—convenience, affordability, and high-quality care done in a very modern way.”