What the Healthcare.gov Debacle Teaches Us About Service Design

How to Enroll for Obamacare. A Few Easy Steps

Love this cartoon from US News

I’m really intrigued by the ongoing debacle of the Obamacare/healthcare.gov rollout, by all accounts plagued with glitches and failures for all users. With only 500k completed applications on 20M visits, they’re looking at a miserable 2.5% task completion rate. Not to mention three weeks of negative press across radio, print, TV and social media. It got so bad that the President himself has to play “Tech Support in Chief” and come out and re-sell the entire ACA to Americans.

What’s so fascinating about the healthcare.gov fiasco?

  1. We’re talking about a government program…really we should have no expectation that this program should come out quickly, smoothly, efficiently. But obviously there is a huge gap between peoples’ expectation and the reality.
  2. As the President said (19:20), “the product is good,” the law is still in effect, the exchanges are open.

Everyone is upset because great products are no longer enough to guarantee great market acceptance*. Organizations need to design excellent experiences and support on top of their products. And companies like Apple, Google, Facebook, Netflix are teaching customers to expect fast, reliable, user-centered experiences on top of whatever product they sell. Seamlessly, across devices and platforms.

The service and experience layer is part of the product, and critical to the brand.

Siloed Organizations Can Cause Fragmented Customer Experience

I think companies and organizations of all sizes will learn from the ACA/healthcare.gov that the product isn’t DONE done until you’ve thought carefully about the entire service layer around the product…how do people learn about it, ask questions, how smooth are those interactions?
The challenge is that in most organizations, different parts of that customer journey are ‘owned’ by different areas or departments: Marketing handles people through awareness and interest, Sales through inquiry and education, IT through the actual transaction, Support for post-sales…

Enter Service Design

The ongoing challenge for organizations, I think, is to maintain shared vision and focus on the customers goals, and seek to globally optimize the customer experience throughout all ways they interact with the product/service ecosystem. A key point is being able to clearly define the customer goals, expectations, and journey by segment or persona.

The google-able buzzword is ‘service design‘ or ‘service design thinking.‘ There’s really nothing new under the sun here…service design thinking really just gives some tools and discipline for getting cross-functional teams working together to co-create shared and sharable customer models, so that everyone in the org can optimize for solving customer problems, rather than achieving department goals. A good place to start is the Adaptive Path Guide to Experience Mapping.

The role of designers in organizations are evolving from designing print collateral, to websites, web and mobile apps. Service design is using those same skills to design the business and customer interactions. It means understanding new constraints…not  just form and function, but also dollars and business sense. But there’s never been a better time for designers to have a strong impact for their clients or company.

* Whether or not  ACA is a Great  Product is left as an exercise for the reader.