Without knowing what makes its customers tick, achieving and sustaining customer loyalty will evade any brand —even the world’s biggest consumer brand.

P&G, which sells its products to more than 5 billion consumers, puts enormous effort into understanding customers so it can understand how its products provide the greatest value. As health plans continue to navigate the uncharted waters of an increasingly consumer-driven marketplace, there’s a great deal to be learned from the consumer-packaged-goods industry — which understands the benefits of shifting with consumers, not against them.

Mark Pritchard, a senior operating officer at P&G recently discussed this critical discipline, equating it to “taking the friction out of the system.”

“What we’re doing now with every one of our businesses is, think about what does the consumer want, what do they not like about the experience [and] what opportunities might it provide?” he told NewCo Shift.

As companies such as P&G, Amazon and Zappos parse consumer needs across every brand touchpoint, they are simultaneously raising the bar for consumer experiences in other industries —- including health insurance. That’s why it’s vital for insurers to adopt a consumer-minded approach for health plans. They must use new technologies to gain insights into their customers’ perspectives. Responding to those insights will allow them to differentiate their brands — not only by price and product, but by demonstrating empathy and understanding for their customers.

Just how important is customer experience?

As Bill Hobbib wrote in Forbes earlier this year,

“Studies show that 82% of people have stopped doing business with a company due to a bad experience. And 95% have taken some action as a result of a bad experience, including the nearly 80% of unhappy customers who tell others about their experience.”

With this in mind, carriers must have real-time visibility into their members’ behaviors and tendencies from the very first click, view or call. Carriers can empower customer service representatives to proactively enroll members with a specific medical condition into wellness programs or educate them on how to best manage a condition. At the very least, greater understanding can reduce service call times.

Taking a proactive role in health outcomes

By embracing a retail-driven consumer strategy, carriers will begin to understand their members’ behavior at every touchpoint. That will in turn allow them to turn consumer insights into actions across all lines of their business by reshaping marketing, messaging and products. Up until a few years ago, health plans were seen as commoditized. In the wake of the Affordable Care Act and the rise of consumerism in healthcare, carriers must brand themselves beyond a logo and clever marketing. Today’s health consumer demands personalized interactions and experiences designed for the consumer. Providing it for them will enable plans to lower costs, increase renewals and drive lifetime member value.

Embracing automated efficiencies and tools

As noted above, many online retailers and e-commerce businesses have empowered consumers with choice, transparency and simplicity. But this has increased consumer expectations. How can health plans take a page from online retail or e-commerce?

Empowerment for consumers and insight for payers

Provide tools so members can make better decisions and gain a transparent view into cost options for providers, prescriptions or procedures within particular zip codes. This will help expedite the shopping and purchasing processes by empowering members and prospects with clear understanding of what is covered and what’s not.

Streamlining billing and claims across the enterprise

Most health plans struggle to eliminate redundancy in technologies or manual administrative processes that bottleneck the billing and claims processes. To make claims and billing more efficient and cost effective, insurance companies should borrow e-commerce solutions and customize them for insurance. These modern technologies synchronize all data across business units and systems, driving down administration costs and building trust between member and carriers. The savings can be significant, from $6 to $12 per e-commerce order.

Growing member sentiment and building a trusted brand

How to build a “trusted brand?” Nordstrom relies on customer-experience software so salespeople can track individual customer requests. Netflix created “binge watching” in part by showing members new programs based on their viewing histories. Carriers who can become a trusted brand will be able to influence customers to use the right plans or products, encourage them to take preventative actions in their health or point them toward medical adherence with 100% compliance.

Carriers can learn a lot from retailers — and how they leverage technologies such as CRMs — to personalize experiences and gain a company-wide window into their customers’ behaviors, tendencies and preferences. Today’s carriers are in a unique position to build brands based on customer experience, and not just price, by addressing the technological weaknesses slowing down their businesses.