“I’d like to cancel my aircards,” I said.
“Sure, I can help with that,” replied a voice cheerier than one might have expected upon hearing such news. “Would you mind telling me why you’re cancelling the cards?” asked the Verizon rep.
“Well,” I said, “My team and I have iPhones. With their latest software release, we can now use the phones to create hotspots, so I don’t need the cards anymore.”
“Ahh,” she said.
“Yes. I can imagine you’ve been getting quite a few calls like this?” I asked.
“Yes. A few,” she giggled. “But there’s one thing I want to make sure you know before you cancel — you can’t be on a call and use the phone to generate a hotspot at the same time.”
“That’s true, but I came up with a workaround,” I said triumphantly.
“Would you mind telling me?” she laughed.
“Sure. If I need to make a call while I’m using the phone to create the hotspot, I do it through Gmail. I just plug a headphone/microphone into the computer and make the call that way,” I said.
“Nice!” she replied.
And that was that. In addition to having experienced one of the best customer service calls I’d ever known, I had just removed about $90 per month in costs (3 air cards @ about $30 per month) from the business. I thought about how thousands and thousands of folks just like me would be doing the same thing, and how that would represent a robust financial kick in the pants to Verizon’s bottom line. And why did it happen? Because someone (Apple) had just decided to give away what Verizon was selling. (In the same release, Apple also rained on the parade of whoever was making money selling flashlight apps.)
In business, in life, this is a calamity to be feared.
Though this experience happened a month or two ago, I thought about it when reading a recent headline about how weight management apps were seeing business tank just as interest in them was increasing. The article went on to say that this was because free versions were eating the lunch of those who’d been charging. And by the way, what do you suppose traditional package carriers were thinking as Jeff Bezos talked about drone-delivery on 60-Minutes? ”Dear God, no!”
As you know, this can happen — and is happening — in healthcare too; for healthcare is a business in many ways just like any other. There are drug store chains looking to take away some of your ambulatory business and a little bit of the more inane ER stuff. There are hospital chains looking to make inroads to your patient population or perhaps acquire you wholesale. There are competitors across town that are waging a services war in the geographical no man’s land between your shops.
As a unit, CIOs want to be seen as strategic; as being able to weigh in on critical business issues, and not just be relegated to putting in technology to support the decided-upon path forward. I can sure think of one way to do this — stop thinking about simply doing what is right for the patient or what is right for the doctors, and starting making sure such suggestions are grounded in what is right for the business. For you will never so easily and quickly get the ear of those who are responsible for keeping the business afloat than by being sensitive to what keeps them up at night.
Understand how the business is doing, have an idea of where the other leaders think it should be going, then bring your unique expertise and point of view into discussions that touch on the core lifeblood of the business. Talk about technology last, as an enabler of the larger revenue-generating strategy. Keep your eyes open and be sensitive to competition. Above all, be on guard for others to start freely dispensing what had been your bread and butter. Because, as Verizon is painfully learning, you just can’t sell what someone else is giving away.