Customer Experience

More Healthcare Metaphors: ‘collision coverage ‘ and ‘waiting games’

Continuing on the theme of our last blog and building from the Commonwealth survey results as reported by the C.D. Howe Institute, the reality of Canadian ‘healthcare’ is that it is more akin to ‘sickcare’ with a system that focuses its limited resources on reactively handling ‘emergencies’.

While the system’s focus on  ‘collision coverage’ has become an accepted metaphor for its’ emergency orientation, patient stories illustrate a darker reality. A ‘collision coverage’ focus means ‘urgent care’ will also take second place to ‘emergency care’.  In other words doctors will need to prioritize between ‘collisions’ based on how immediately life threatening the damage to the ‘vehicle’ is.  This has the ‘urgent care ‘ patient, unlike the emergency patient, experiencing healthcare as ‘a waiting game’.

To help illustrate what this can mean from a patient experience standpoint, here is a story from a recent patient self-ethnography study.   Ted, a previously healthy adult runner comes down with pneumonia and experiences complications that damage one of his lungs. Laparoscopic lung surgery is needed to restore function to the lung and to rule out a possible life threatening malignancy. Ted is admitted into hospital where the only bed is on a surgical ward of older male patients suffering from dementia. Once in the ward, the  ‘waiting game’ begins for Ted.  Each day he is told surgery will likely happen only to be bumped by more ‘life threatening’ collisions. Ted, eager to avoid contracting more germs and in need of restorative sleep asks if he can play ‘the waiting game’ from home. The answer is no for if he leaves the hospital he loses his place in the queue.  Waiting time in the queue can be anywhere from one day to seven. In Ted’s case he waits three full days for ‘urgent’ surgery. 

Both ‘collision coverage’ and ‘waiting games’ represent potential ‘holes’ in the healthcare ‘net’ rendering it unsafe. Attaching real life scenarios to the metaphors from patient ethnography bring clarity to the problems being solved and make solutions work tangible. 

Looking at Millennial Metaphors#4: Affiliation

Millennials are considered to be the most connected generation with technology and social media supporting their need for affiliation.  The CONNECTION metaphor speaks to this desire to belong and helps to explain the deep metaphor’s status as one of the ‘giant’ universals.

Millennials have grown up in the ‘thumbs up’ culture of Facebook. It is in the digital village of social media that they have learned the power of sharing ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes’ with others. They are an empowered generation of consumers who are quick to publicly ‘shame’ brands and organizations online when they do not deliver on their promises and praise those who exceed expectations.

Using the power of the connection metaphor as a catalyst for brand building is a wise move for those wanting to create deep relationships with millennials. A wonderful example of this comes to us from Sweden and the not-for-profit world of blood donor services.  The brand builder recognized millennials’ desire to ‘belong’ and affiliate with a worthy cause, giving blood.  Armed with a deep understanding of affiliation as it relates to their organization, they designed a unique donor experience. Specifically, the organization created a community in which the act of donating is directly connected to the saving of a life. They do this by texting donors every time the blood they give is transfused, acknowledging that because of their generous donation a life has been saved. This ‘thumbs up’ turns donors into acknowledged heroes and helps to strengthen the bonds between the organization, donors and the cause.  It is a community of giving powered by leveraging the connection metaphor in which donor relationships with the organization and cause is deepened with every text sent.

Growing up in a digital village millennials are a generation that are expanding and shaping the meaning of connection.  They continuously interrupt activities using social media to reach out to affiliate, friend, like or share.  In doing so they are turning the experience of disruption into an experience of connection. How might exploring the nature of connection among millennials help you strengthen your organization brand’s relationship with this important cohort?



In the physical workplace, most of us agree that two heads are better than one. In fact, bringing different perspectives or ways of thinking to the same problem is considered invaluable in business and rightly so. Yet all too often brand, corporate reputation and customer experience are all viewed through a singular lens, the lens of the company’s good intentions. As a result this single perspective, the company’s, drives the allocation of resources.

The best way to ensure that the impact of brand, reputation and customer experience initiatives are greater than the sum of their parts, is to focus on the intersection between the three: more specifically, the experiences and perceptions of customers. This means moving beyond the lens of the company’s good intentions, to how customers both want to feel and do feel in their experiences with the company and its’ brands.

Bringing the customer’s perspective to the road of business growth takes courage. It means moving away from traditional research which tends to confirm existing hypotheses and the voice of the marketer, to more innovative techniques such as metaphor elicitation that give voice to the customer.

The best way to ensure the impact of brand, reputation and customer experience is greater than the sum of their parts is to commit to a program of exploration and feedback that taps into the intersection of conscious and unconscious minds of customers. It requires moving to metaphor based methodologies in which customers are given the chance to create pictures of what matters to them, whether or not the emotions, ideas and motivations which those pictures reveal are on to the list of what the company ‘knows’ or wants to hear about. Research designed to explore in this way will provide the company with the perspective or headlights needed to navigate the road of business growth fuelled by brand, reputation and experience insights that truly amplify the voice of the customer.



Adding emotions to the brew at Second Cup

Canada's 40 year old coffee retail brand, The Second Cup, has undertaken a massive 're-imagination' project which coffee lovers can experience first hand by visiting their ‘cafe of the future’ opened in December 2014 at King and John in downtown Toronto. 

The 're-imagination' aims for a premium experience and features an impressively long list of experience dimensions and clues designed to put  'fresh' back into Second Cup’s coffee culture. Most notable to us are the brewing 'theatre' at a slow bar, murals celebrating the neighbourhood and the artist inspired cups pictured above. 

We love that cups were created to express each of Second Cup’s corporate values: optimism, creativity and collaboration. We hope the customer’s desired emotions in the experience become more central as the re-imagination effort continues. We believe a compelling way to continue is to think about the intersection between those corporate values and how customers want to feel in their cafe experience.   

The opportunity as we see it is for Second Cup to move beyond how it wants to operate, to delivering on how customers want to feel in their experience with them.  If optimism is indeed a desired emotional outcome, then all experience dimensions should be intentionally and systematically designed and tested for their contribution to feelings of optimism.   It represents the best way to evolve this amazing café of the future and solidify the brand relationship in a crowded category.