Components of a COVID-19 home test kit with components taken out of the box and resting on the box.
Editorial

I Got COVID-19. Why Customer Experience Mattered So Much

7 minute read
Akshay Sura avatar
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a lot more personalized connected experiences, especially in healthcare. I know. I got COVID-19.

We expect excellent customer experiences from consumer technology companies, and service industries like hotels and restaurants, but we do not think of great customer experience when it comes to healthcare. When we think about healthcare, we think of long wait times, repeatedly filling in the same paperwork and a lack of empathy for the patient. Could you imagine if your doctor’s office experience were more like going to an Apple store?

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a lot more personalized connected experiences in many industries like food and retail, but most of all in healthcare. This came into focus recently when I tested positive for COVID-19.

CX Lessons After COVID-19 Diagnosis

I had somehow avoided the virus for this long. For the last year or so, my family for a few vacations had begun to get back out into the world. I was always careful and followed guidelines as I traveled for business throughout North America and into Europe and Africa. Through diligent research, I worked out the regulations for getting in and out of the different countries and regions. I utilized telemedicine services that beamed in doctors at a fee to watch me take my required (negative) test to travel to and from the USA. It was i

Sitecore Symposium 2022 in Chicago last month was a wonderful time of networking, catching up with old friends, and learning about the roadmap for Sitecore’s composable future. For the whole week Sunday-Saturday, life was quite normal, even pre-COVIDian, if you will.

I came home on the weekend, though, and started to feel cold/flu-like symptoms. I had felt these symptoms coming back from the Kontent.ai MVP Summit in Europe a month before as well but had tested negative several times in that instance. I figured this time would be the same, even though this sickness felt a bit different.

I took a few tests, and one showed the unmistakable line on the “T” column. The ability to take rapid tests at home for a pandemic disease is a true innovation. But I needed to confirm the diagnosis with a more official test. I went to a testing center, conveniently located across the park from our home. The test was free — which was peculiar to me — and I got my confirmation of a positive result 30 minutes later.

Related Article: 2 Years Into COVID: What CX Strategies Work Now

Where Tech Leads to Better Health Practices

I did not realize that the official testing protocols open a cascade of “automations.” This again felt like an impressive and beneficial leveraging of technology. I received text messages, emails, calls, and smartphone notifications. Contact-tracing technologies notified the phones of people who had been near me within the approximate window of infection.

Some might say this is big brother-ish, but it felt like a worthy use of the available technology that is already in our hands. Contact-tracing is an option in our country but enforced in others. I think of the CX lessons of going to the customers where they are and the promises of omnichannel distribution. All this was followed up with a text that confirmed my positive test, told me what I should and should not do for the next 5-10 days (about one and a half weeks) and answered any of my questions with a firm grasp of the guidelines using the automated website.

At least I now knew to quarantine away from the family, binge out on my digital creature comforts (I recommend “The Peripheral” on Prime Video), hydrate, and get better as soon as possible.

Related Article: Here's What I Learned About Customer Experience From One Pharmacy Trip

Learning Opportunities

When the Virus Is Like Going Viral

But then, I learned the real-life version of “viral.” I regularly wonder how I contracted this virus, in all the interactions I had with many conference participants, at Chicago restaurants, and in airports? In all of that, what was the spark? Why now? Not downplaying through comparison, but it is similar to viral content. You wonder the same things when it comes to what content resonated spectacularly versus content that fell flat.

On Day 2, my youngest daughter began showing the telltale symptoms. While I gained some company — a quarantine roommate — the stakes became much higher. My mission turned toward looking for children’s Tylenol, a blood oximeter and more COVID tests. At six in the morning, I needed to act. I know I was still sick, but I took every precaution, and — feeling like I was the leader of one of those Walking Dead expeditions — went out for the provisions I needed.

So, of course, I started at Walmart. I asked an employee for assistance. I told him my daughter was sick, and he said, “no wonder, a dad in shorts when it is 40 degrees (Fahrenheit) outside...only a parent.” He understood.

The emails and texts I received from the local, county, and state officials continued to come in, especially now that our home had two COVID-19-positive individuals. When you are sick, the last thing you want to do is spend time on things that require attention — sounds like a business owner 😊 — but you understand the need to do so. It is important to take the time, answer the questions and be as transparent as possible so that the next person may benefit. A lot of this started to feel like the antivirus software precautions we take for our digital health. Report the intrusion as quickly as possible, be transparent, and seek all remedies and pathways to contain the threat and not let it propagate.

As scary as it felt initially, my family and I are moving ahead in the healing process. It takes some time, and there are blips, but we are thankful that all the precautions we have taken — vaccinations, precautionary steps, etc. — will limit the extent of the damage that would be possible otherwise. Some improvements could be made by government entities, especially in terms of recommendations for up-to-date solutions and novel treatments, but overall, there are great lessons to be found for the provider of customer experience.

Related Article: Applying 2 Years of Customer Experience Lessons for 2022

COVID-19 Customer Experience Playbook

Again, perhaps not at the level of an Apple Store, here were some key takeaways from the customer experience surrounding COVID-19.

  • Technology served the "business” objective. The objective here was to keep the virus at bay by social distancing, masking and regular testing, especially once you are stricken with sickness. The ability to book testing, find out your result and have a list of activities that kick into gear based on a positive result was amazing.
  • Go to the customer where they are. Smartphones are the most ubiquitous communications device we own in society. Building your program around this device, this channel, was a smart strategy that allowed you to serve the largest possible population. Connecting with native notification technologies, text messages, email and Bluetooth content-tracing protocols were, while some would think as obvious, the best strategy with the information and goals at the time.
  • Be lean and agile. There are a million things that highly-skilled minds could do with the raw materials provided for this project of keeping society safe and informed in the face of a pandemic. But much like we learn in project management tutorials, do not “gold plate.” Gold plating “is usually caused by project managers or team members deciding they want to offer the client something additional on the project.” In this case, that would have caused a delay. Being lean and agile, and delivering exactly what is needed to affect real change, was the preeminent goal at play here. The technologies surrounding COVID-19 testing, tracing and notification may have been complex, but they got the job done under immense pressure.
  • Customer service is paramount. Automation technology can serve all those negative test recipients. But when you receive a positive test and have all those notifications coming at you through text message, email and digital voice, sometimes talking to a real human being is soothing. It depends on the person, of course; some may choose not to speak with a human and interact with a chatbot. The COVID-19 alert system seems to strike that balance.

About the author

Akshay Sura

Akshay is a partner and a composable architect at Konabos Inc., he has over 20 years of experience with a specific focus on content management systems and digital experience platforms like Sitecore. He is a nine-time Sitecore Most Valuable Professional (MVP) and a Kontent.ai MVP, a leader in several community initiatives, and lives his company’s values to be kind, to be fair and to keep exploring.

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