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How to Build Healthcare Customer Trust with Empathetic UX

7 min read

Your healthcare company works hard to earn (and keep) the trust of its prospects and customers. That’s because you understand that trust is the essential glue holding your business together.

But here’s something you may not have considered: The way you design your digital experiences impacts your entire organization’s reputation for credibility and trustworthiness. Get it wrong, and you’ll quickly undermine the trust you’ve gone to such pains to establish.

A good user experience (UX) strategy takes into account the multiple factors that lead to a site’s trustworthiness and works to amplify them. As with all UX practices, empathy forms the foundation of trustworthy design.

So, what exactly does trustworthy design look like? And how can you intentionally cultivate empathy for your users in a way that translates to increased trust and credibility? Here’s what you need to know.

The Four Hallmarks of Trustworthy Web Design

The first job of any website or digital product is to establish credibility and build trust. Only after this basic hurdle has been cleared can a website hope to achieve its bigger-picture goals.

Broadly speaking, UX experts recognize that trustworthy design can be boiled down to four components:

  • Visual design. How professional is the site’s design? Is it carefully tailored to create a welcoming, user-friendly experience? Do the site’s workflows and organization follow UX best practices and match users’ existing mental models? Are there any errors, broken links, areas “under construction,” or obvious technical problems? The answers to these questions are directly linked to a site’s credibility and trustworthiness.
  • Transparency. Transparency refers to the degree to which a website proactively discloses the information that is relevant to a user’s experience or interaction. In the context of healthcare, this might relate to the way a site handles information about costs, coverage, billing, privacy, and the collection of personal identifying information (PII).
  • Content. The more accurate, comprehensive, and current your content is, the more credible and trustworthy your organization will appear.
  • Social proof. Your audience will almost certainly take a multi-channel approach to assessing your organization’s credibility. The customer testimonials and case studies you provide on your website are important. But when it comes to determining your organization’s trustworthiness, your audience isn’t likely to take your word for it and leave it at that. To what degree is your organization represented on external websites? What are your customers saying about you on third-party review sites? And are you confident enough in your customer satisfaction rates to link directly to those sites?

Your ability to ace each of these categories begins with how well you understand and empathize with your audience. Empathy (in combination with UX research) allows you to anticipate and answer your users’ needs appropriately, from the organization of your digital experiences to the content they contain.

Building Trust in the Healthcare Space Requires a Holistic Effort

Healthcare companies face an additional challenge in the quest to design digital experiences that build trust. This is because they typically have multiple channels to consider, from their external websites and member portals to mobile apps and social media platforms. And their ability to create a consistent experience across each of these channels is key to creating and maintaining trust.

For example, let’s say a customer calls in to your customer care line to discuss a claim. Before connecting with a representative, the customer answers a number of questions via your interactive voice response system. But as soon as the representative gets on the line, he proceeds to ask the same set of questions all over again.

While on the call, our intrepid customer logs into her member dashboard. However, she soon realizes that the information in the dashboard doesn’t match the information available to the representative. The customer’s conversation with the representative now devolves into a discussion about which source of data is actually correct.

Now pause. How do you think our hypothetical customer feels at this point in her experience? Has her trust in your organization grown? Of course not! In fact, this is an all-too-common example of how an inconsistent experience across multiple systems and channels can break trust.

If you want to build trust, your UX strategy must be holistic. That is, you must apply it consistently across each of your many channels. Further, you must ensure that you are consistent not only in the way you design experiences, but in the way data is used to power them.

Ready to Create User Experiences that Grow Trust? Start with These Empathy-Building Exercises.

If empathy is the basic building block of a trust-building user experience, then getting to know your customers and building empathy for them is your first order of business. Use the following tactics to cultivate deeper empathy for your customers — and leverage it into a more effortless, credible, and trustworthy user experience.

Create Detailed Personas

The more deeply your team knows and understands your users, the more empathy you can cultivate for them. If you haven’t already created detailed personas for each of your core user groups, now is the time to do so.

As you identify each of your target user groups, take care to move beyond generic demographics. Instead, flesh out each persona by constructing personal details, a relevant personal story, and information about their motivations and desires. Of course, you’ll need to make up some of the specific personal details in your persona (such as your persona’s name). That’s fine — just make sure to ground your fabrications in what you actually do know about each of your user groups.

A robust persona might include:

  • A realistic photo (this can be a stock photo)
  • A name, such as “Connie Customer”
  • A job role or title
  • Demographics information, such as age, gender, location, education, level of technological saviness, and so on
  • A relevant personal story that sheds light on how your persona might interact with your product or service
  • A quote that illustrates your persona’s attitudes toward your product or services (bonus points if you use an actual customer quote)
  • A summary of your persona’s top goals and motivations
  • A list of your persona’s top pain points
  • Any other behaviors or beliefs that might be relevant to your product or service

Map Customer Journeys

Customer journey mapping is an important empathy-building exercise that enables your team to put themselves in your customers’ shoes.

To create a customer journey map, plot each of the touchpoints and interactions your customers might have with your healthcare company. You can choose to map all of the many customer touchpoints across your entire business or zero in on a particular digital interface, workflow, or task.

Next, go through each individual touchpoint or interaction as if you were a customer and document any pain points and frustrations you encounter along the way. Finally, conduct qualitative research (user testing and interviews) and quantitative data (such as click tracking and user dropout rates) to identify UX issues and discover opportunities for improvement.

Perform a Content Audit

The written copy on your website, member portal, and other digital spaces has the power to build your customers’ trust — or erode it. By reviewing your content with your users’ needs explicitly in mind, you can continue to build empathy for your users. In addition, by performing a content audit, you can ensure that your content is working for you rather than against you.

To begin, carefully assess all of the content on your website and other digital properties with an eye toward building empathy and trust. As you review your content, ask yourself whether it is:

  • Relevant. Does the copy offered on any given screen match the actual tasks your users are trying to perform? If not, adjust the copy so that it ably guides the user through each task. Reference user research as you write your copy so that you can properly anticipate users’ questions and offer the right level of instruction.
  • Readable. If your content is chock-full of unexplained technical terms and industry jargon, your users are bound to feel frustrated and disoriented. The solution? Craft your content with your end users in mind. What is the appropriate reading level for your users? Which terms need to be defined? Where can you simplify your language to promote better understanding?
  • Providing the right level of detail at the right time. If you overwhelm your users with too much information, they will feel, well, overwhelmed. Empathizing with your users means understanding what they need to know at any given time. Use progressive disclosure to serve up only those details they actually need in the moment. Then, make sure they naturally encounter the next layer of information as it becomes relevant. And be sure to give users the opportunity to dig deeper whenever they want.

You take pride in your healthcare company’s trustworthiness. By building empathy for your users and embracing the right UX design, you can ensure that your customers actually experience that trustworthiness with every interaction.

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