The scientific community has done an amazing job of accelerating the creation and testing of very effective and safe vaccines. Their work has provided the world with hope. But vaccines on their own are not the answer. To curb COVID, we need vaccination programs that increasingly “get shots into arms.”
While the U.S. government has put in place many of the pieces to distribute the vaccines, it’s sorely ignoring a fundamental element of the effort: human behavior and sentiment. Ending the pandemic requires widespread adoption of the vaccine; which, in turn, requires people to trust the government enough to engage with the vaccination process. Unfortunately, trust in government is at a historically low rate, suggesting the need to proactively counteract the trust deficit, especially with underserved communities who have in many cases been hardest hit by the pandemic. Several challenges specific to the vaccination campaign make this particularly difficult:
- Safety concerns. Despite compelling scientific evidence about the safety and efficacy of the vaccines, many people don’t trust what they may be hearing. In a recent study of 1,000+ U.S. adults, Qualtrics found that 40% of respondents reported they are either unsure or plan not to get vaccinated. The top reasons cited for this hesitancy were concerns about the vaccines’ safety and possible side effects.
- Eligibility confusion. While the CDC and other agencies set rollout priorities, the news is full of stories about the wide variety of decisions states and individual locations are making about who gets doses when. Without a definitive “source of truth” for who is eligible to get the shots, people are left to wonder and speculate -- causing inequity, anxiety and a lack of faith in the public officials managing the vaccination campaign.
- Process challenges. Without a streamlined registration and vaccination process, people are forced to wait in long lines and “hope” for a vaccination. The experience being shared by those people along with the stories we regularly see in the news are enough to embolden the naysayers, and even turn vaccination wanters into waiters.
Tapping into experience management capabilities
We’ve worked with many organizations across a wide variety of industries to address exactly these kinds of challenges. Without a keen focus on the experience being created for all of the stakeholders involved in a process —suppliers, employees, and customers—companies default to just pushing out products and crossing their fingers hoping that customers will embrace them. Clearly this is not a sustainable model.
In place of this suboptimal, inside-out, push approach, many organizations have adopted Experience Management (XM) as the foundation for creating a more positive, long term relationship with customers and stakeholders. What is XM? It’s the discipline of using both experience data (X-data) and operational data (O-data) to design and improve the four core experiences organizations deliver: customer, employee, product, and brand.
As organizations adopt XM, they better understand how people are thinking and feeling, and tap into that insight to more quickly respond to any changes and shifts across their ecosystem. That’s because XM enables organizations to:
- Continuously learn. XM helps organizations more effectively sense and interpret what’s going on all around them, collecting and analyzing signals from the actions and feedback of employees, partners, vendors, customers, and even competitors. XM can help vaccination leaders better understand what’s keeping the specific segments of the public from wanting a vaccine, and what needs to be improved throughout the vaccination scheduling and administration process for residents and all of the people working on the program.
- Propagate insights. XM helps organizations put actionable intelligence in the hands of people across their ecosystem who can use it immediately, creating seamless access to the right information in the right form at the right time. XM can help all participants in the vaccination chain—from drug companies to logistics teams to vaccination sites—uncover the actions they need to take, with automated insights and alerts that are tailored to the key roles in the process.
- Rapidly adapt. XM helps organizations act on the insights they’ve uncovered at an increasingly faster pace, finding ways to create new experiences and renovate existing ones. As useful insights start flowing, leaders across every aspect of the vaccination program will be able to make more frequent adjustments in the face of problems they uncover, shifts in the overall vaccination plan, or changes in population sentiment.
Introducing a resident-centric vaccination approach
As governments start applying the XM discipline, and shift their focus from doses to people, they will be equipped to drive successful countrywide vaccinations. This new resident-centric approach doesn’t abandon the need for a very strong logistics program, but instead augments those activities with the focus on human experience that’s required to build trust and encourage widespread participation.
A resident-centric approach is different than the current vaccine-centric model in many ways, including that it will focus much more on:
- Designing experiences that satisfy residents’ diverse needs. Rather than just assuming the public will comply with the program’s goals and guidelines, this new approach will focus on addressing the needs and concerns of different segments of residents, and use those insights to develop appropriate interactions and processes at the local level. This approach will also allow for more targeted development of experiences to meet the needs of underserved communities that often require culturally-specific experiences.
- Improving processes based on experience-centric insights. Instead of expecting that complex efforts to deliver millions of vaccine doses will be appropriate on the first pass, this new approach will enable ongoing adjustments with insights from residents and front-line vaccination workers.
8 Recommendations for a resident-centric vaccination approach
Based on our experience helping 100s of organizations adopt more human-centric practices, here are eight recommendations:
- Focus on residents as human beings. Residents aren’t robots that blindly comply with government requests. They’re people. That’s why a resident-centric approach needs to be built around how human beings actually think, feel, and make decisions. For instance, successful designs need to take into account people’s cognitive biases and decision-making heuristics.
- Design around the residents’ journey. Rather than building a plan from the government supply chain out to the public, a resident-centric approach will design experiences from the public’s point of view. XM professionals often use journey maps as a tool to establish this perspective. Rather than treating the public as a monolithic group that flows through a process in the same way, government officials need to create specific journey maps that examine the unique journeys of underserved communities. With this approach, the vaccination program will guide people from the point where they learn about the vaccine until they are vaccinated and become vaccine promoters.
- Create a robust, easy to use scheduling system. One of the critical early steps in the journey is determining eligibility and scheduling a vaccination. If this goes wrong, then residents will have a poor experience and lose trust. Rather than using disparate systems and clunky technology, local governments should apply an easy to use, self-service system that keeps people informed throughout their vaccination journey, and is flexible enough to adjust to inevitable shifts in the supply chain, government guidelines, and other factors.
- Ensure an effective digital presence. While residents will use different channels to find the information they need, an overwhelming number will default to engaging online. So digital properties are a critical ingredient for keeping the public confident and informed. Rather than hoping that websites are working well, assume that they are in need of constant improvement. Make sure to apply a combination of always-on and behavior-based feedback systems to ensure that the content is effective and that the sites remain easy to navigate.
- Establish an experience monitoring system. Once you’ve identified the residents’ journey, you can use that information to identify how to instrument that flow and collect the right experience data (X-data) and operational data (O-data). These listening posts will be critical for maintaining clear and ongoing visibility into the efficacy of the vaccination process… from not only the view of the general public, but also the specific viewpoints of underrepresented communities most affected by the pandemic.
- Tap into front-line feedback as an early warning system. Throughout their journey, people getting vaccinated will interact with many service providers - from doctors to administrators to volunteers. These heros on the frontlines are in the ideal position to identify problems and generate solutions in real time. Governments should deploy simple frontline feedback systems that make it easy for these people to highlight potential issues and suggest improvements.
- Use choice analytics to optimize experience attributes. One of the critical elements of successful deployment is to make decisions that accurately reflect residents’ preferences. Some choices, such as when and how to receive a vaccine, can be extremely complicated to evaluate. Rather than simplistic mechanisms such as asking people to simply rate different options, vaccination programs will make better informed decisions by using more sophisticated analytics tools such as conjoint and MaxDiff.
- Enhance the vaccination “brand.” It’s critical that the government develop a plan to monitor and improve the way that the general public views the vaccination program. If negative sentiment is allowed to grow, then it will give fuel to the anti-vaccine movement and also continue to perpetuate the general lack of trust of government agencies. That’s why it’s important to build a robust brand tracking system that can uncover and distribute meaningful insights to all of the communications teams so that they can make ongoing adjustments.
The bottom line: Vaccination programs need to be more resident-centric.
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