Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Addressing the Big Issues Builds Loyalty

I’ve written before about what multichannel retail, and Walgreens in particular, can teach the healthcare industry about the customer experience. I didn’t consider the ways retailers could teach them about how to build their reputations. Until today.

Today, Walgreens announced a bold move -- to provide health care services to people who get laid off and have no health insurance -- through year-end at its in-store Take Care Clinics nationwide. In contrast to all the feel-good initiatives other retailers have undertaken, most of which I believe are genuinely well-intended, Walgreens is actually making a difference here at home that touches millions of Americans. And by stepping up to one of the biggest concerns facing working people everywhere, Walgreens is burnishing its reputation and creating a whole lotta goodwill and brand loyalty in the process.

Meanwhile, what have category leaders like Kaiser, Wellpoint, and United Healthcare been doing?

On March 7 in San Francisco, Kaiser Permanente gave 26 uninsured people free surgical care, from colonoscopies to hernia repairs to tonsillectomies. Super Surgery Saturday was organized by Operation Access, a nonprofit organization launched 16 years ago to mobilize Bay Area hospitals, community clinics and medical volunteers to donate help to low-income people who need surgery but lack health insurance. A generous act of compassion – but unlikely to cast much glow back on Kaiser’s reputation outside of San Francisco.

As far as I can tell, Wellpoint and United Healthcare are sitting this one out. Clearly, Walgreens wins. Let the big boys take note.

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