On October 1st, New York State, just like many others across the country, launched its new Health Benefits Exchange. The exchange enables people to apply, shop for and ultimately purchase their own health insurance. Whether these exchanges are good or bad, right or wrong, economically, socially, politically, etc., is for another discussion. The point I wish to make here, about the exchange, has to do with QR Codes and marketing.
A couple of weeks before October 1st, I called the New York Health Benefits Exchange to ask a couple of questions, and the customer service representative I spoke with was extremely pleasant and, more importantly, sounded well-informed. So far, so good. A far cry from other conversations I have had, or tried to have, with health insurance providers, carriers, etc. in the past.
On October 1st, I went to the exchange’s website and tried to log-on and establish my account but, due to too many users at once, the site was down. The following day, I tried again and the same thing happened, no access due to overcrowding. I let a few days go by and tried again and, lo and behold, I was able to gain access and start the application process. Starting the process and finishing the process, however, were two different things. As I began entering data and hit the “Next” button to advance to the next page, the system kept timing out and I would have to hit the back page button to unfreeze the page. When I did this, I really ended up advancing to the next page of the application. Weird. As there were a number of questions to answer, there were many pages to work through, and on each page when the “Next” button was pressed the same thing mentioned above would happen. From one page to another, the system timed out and for something that should only have taken about 20 minutes ended up taking about an hour or a bit longer. And this only had to do with applying. This has nothing to due with actually submitting my application, waiting for approval and then shopping for an insurance plan. Hopefully that process is not as arduous or lengthy. It almost goes without saying, this interactive experience was a far cry from the rather decent experience I had on the phone with a customer service representative. Why?
To know that the idea and approval of the health exchange did not happen overnight, I’m most certain that New York State Department of Health had more than enough time to plan and develop its website but, if that’s the case, why should the website fail so miserably? It seems to have been designed well, as it’s easy to navigate and find information, etc., but why should site access and use be less than optimal and so very ridiculous? Did the Health Department not stress test the website for something as simple as the number of concurrent users? Certainly the department would have known that hundreds of thousands of people would attempt to access the site as soon as it became available.
If the Department of Health was a company looking to sell insurance as a product, using the web as its main distribution channel, how successful, how profitable would it be? Not very and why? In my mind, it’s because the department did not take the time to fully test the system, from end to end, from one scenario to another. And this brings me to my point about QR Codes and marketing.
When a company chooses to use a technology like QR Codes, or even mobile in general, it’s imperative that the marketing strategy, tactic, campaign, program, activity, event, what have you, be tested, and tested rigorously. The QR Code needs to be tested using multiple handsets, multiple code reader apps, etc., so that you know with near absolute certainty that the code will work in the hands of a consumer. You know that the interactive experience that was designed and intended will actually be realized. You know that the brand will not suffer any ill effects as a result of a non-working code. Far too often, a QR Code and the underlying mobile experience does not work as planned and it’s a shame knowing the amount of time and resources that went into its development. Or, the bigger question could be asked, was enough time and were enough resources put into it? Maybe that’s it. Maybe the QR Code was more of an afterthought and not given the time and attention it needed for proper development and execution.
As with any form of marketing, traditional or digital, the experience and interaction realized by consumers needs to be flawless, seamless, frictionless. This should be the goal and proper stress testing will see that it’s accomplished.