A Unique Way to Get Others to Improve

Joe’s haircut is darn ugly. What are effective ways to persuade Joe, or other people and organizations, such as healthcare providers, to make improvements? One way is to issue orders, but that only works if you’re the boss. Another way is to reliably predict a bad outcome unless improvements are made, as in the case of budgets, health, safety, etc. Yet another way is to teach how to improve on a specific key measure, which can work if people or organizations are self-driven.

comparisons

It’s often pointed out (e.g., in this Harvard Business Review article) that people are motivated by peer comparisons, which are effective because it’s human nature to notice others and be influenced by them, and because the comparisons are easy to grasp: Your Peer does better at X, and X is important, so try to measure up! But a comparison to a single Peer is subject to the defensive reaction that the Peer has very different circumstances, so the two aren’t comparable!

I wish to put forth a way to make peer comparisons that are arguably persuasive, but rare. People seldom think of them and they are hard to come up with without the help of automated comparisons of available data. These peer comparisons are characterized by a second measure, Y.

Consider telling Joe this comparison:  You have the ugliest haircut of everybody as good-looking as you! Notice that you are implicitly using two measures: (1) haircut ugliness, and (2) good looks. The peer group is everybody who is at least as handsome as Joe. Within this elite group, unfortunately Joe does the worst. On the one hand, Joe feels good about his comparison group, and on the other hand, he has the worst outcome, assuming he cares at all. And the peer group is large, unless Joe is stunning!

Now, for you logician readers, let’s acknowledge that “Joe has the ugliest haircut of everybody who is as good looking as him.” is absolutely equivalent to “Joe is the best looking of everybody with such an ugly haircut.” But psychologist readers will agree that the first version does better at motivating performance improvement, since a likely human reaction to the second version is “Well, at least I’ve got something going for me!

It turns out that automated experiments with healthcare or business data turn up a large number of such peer comparisons. Here are three actual, but anonymized, insights taken from various healthcare sectors at BenchMine.com:

1.    A California hospital has the lowest communication-about-medicines rating (2 stars) of the 358 hospitals with as high an overall patient rating (5 stars). Those 2 stars compare to an average of 4.3 stars across the 358 hospitals.

2.    In the Southwest, a Texas home health agency has the fewest patients who got better at getting in and out of bed (19.1%) among the 1,651 home health agencies with at least 49.1% of patients who got better at walking or moving around. That 19.1% compares to an average of 65.3% across those 1,651 home health agencies.

3.    Pennsylvania nursing home has the most short-stay residents who had an outpatient emergency department visit (34.1%) among the 317 nursing homes with at most 10.1% of short-stay residents who were rehospitalized after a nursing home admission. That 34.1% compares to an average of 9.8% across those 317 nursing homes.

The basic “shaming” message is this: Why are you so bad at X if you’re so good at the related measure Y? Everybody else with such a good Y is doing better than you! Of course, the world is filled with such potential insights, although coming up with verifiable ones may best be done with rigor by software, as long as data can be collected and analyzed.

Instead of merely ordering Joe to get a new barber, presenting him with a book on hairstyling, or predicting that his love life is doomed unless he improves, let’s try pointing out how poorly he stands out as compared to his wonderful peer group! The same goes for Doris the hospital’s chief quality officer, Nancy the home health agency’s chief nurse, and Mary the nursing home’s director.

[First published on LinkedIn Pulse]

Raul Valdes-Perez

 

Standout Scores: Express the Comparative Performance of a Nursing Home with a Single Score, Based on Reported Insights

OnlyBoth has launched a new benchmarking-engine capability which objectively scores how each nursing home across the country stands out from others, both positively and negatively. The resulting standout score is a count of how well a nursing home stands out compared to various peer groups, as seen in the engine’s reported insights for that nursing home. Although not designed as a comprehensive ranking, the scores express comparative performance over a broad range of criteria.

bullseye

According to the OnlyBoth standout scores for nursing homes, the top 5 U.S. nursing homes out of more than 15,000 in the country are these:

  • #1 University Post-Acute Rehab in Sacramento, CA
  • #1 Kaiser Foundation Hospital Manteca Distinct Part Skilled Nursing Facility in Manteca, CA
  • #3 Signature HealthCARE At Sts. Mary & Elizabeth Hospital in Louisville, KY
  • #4 Brian Center Health & Retirement/Cabarrus in Concord, NC
  • #4 Manorcare Health Services-Green Tree in Pittsburgh, PA

The scores have several uses. First, let’s say that you’re preparing a candidate list of good-performing nursing homes for a prospective resident. To score all the nursing homes in a county, click on the Score nursing homes button and enter its name in the county search box.

Second, while you’re evaluating the detailed performance of a nursing home, click on the left-side question: Where does it stand in its county? in order to highlight its ranking within all those peers.

Third, to score all the homes within a peer group you select, say for investigative or marketing purposes, e.g., all government-owned nursing homes, click on Query across nursing homes and formulate your own query.

To see what underlies the top standout scores, check out some key reported insights on California’s University Post-Acute Rehab in Sacramento and Kaiser Foundation Hospital in Manteca.

University Post-Acute Rehab is the only one of 36 nursing homes in Sacramento County which has a 5-star rating in each of overall, health inspection, quality measures, and registered-nurse staffing. The facility also has the lowest total number of health deficiencies (zero) of the 36 nursing homes in the county.

Kaiser Foundation Hospital is only one of two nursing homes in all of San Joaquin County that doesn’t have any facility-reported incidents, substantiated complaints, fines, or payment denials. It also has the lowest total number of health deficiencies (zero) of the 26 nursing homes in the county.

It’s very illuminating also to check out what underlies the worst standout scores, nationally or just in your own county.

The scores are completely transparent, just like healthcare is becoming with the help of automated benchmarking engines. You can calculate a nursing home’s score yourself, in seconds, by going through its reported insights and subtracting the negative ones from the positive ones, as explained here at the bottom.

Our standard scores are similar in spirit to Nursing Home Compare’s overall rating, which is very complex. There is a substantial correlation (0.58) between standout scores and overall ratings. Standout scores are completely linked to a nursing home’s public, comparative performance along all the included data dimensions, and is completely automated regardless of new data attributes that may be added, e.g., on patient surveys, pricing, or consumer reviews.

By empowering new uses, such as consumers wanting to create a list of candidate nursing homes to visit or to evaluate more deeply, standout scores contribute to healthcare transparency and thus ultimately to the goal of driving performance improvement.

Why Comparing Healthcare Providers Needs Automation

I’ve lived for years in the same area of Pittsburgh, whose streets don’t follow a grid design since it’s hilly and pre-dates the automobile. Sometimes before driving to a familiar destination, I’ll check Google Maps, which alerts me to a favored route that I didn’t even know existed. I act on the suggestion which usually turns out great. Is this unique to mapping, or can this happen in other domains of reasoning and discovery? How about healthcare?

Solution Spaces and Artificial Intelligence

Automated mapping helps me discover new routes not because I’m spatially challenged, but because the software explores side streets which motorists like me don’t consider. Instead, motorists tend to consider the larger, familiar streets that head toward their destination. Using Artificial Intelligence (AI) concepts, we say that mapping software searches for solutions within a larger space of possibilities than people do. In chess play, software considers piece sacrifices which none but top players will ever think of. It also occurs in scientific research. This should happen in healthcare, too, where there are huge potential gains for many stakeholders and rich data sets are publicly reported.

[Continue reading at LinkedIn Pulse …]

 

 

Unprecedented Data-Driven Performance Transparency in Healthcare, starting with Nursing Homes

I am proud to announce that, as part of OnlyBoth’s strong focus on healthcare during 2018, we just launched a web-based Nursing Homes benchmarking engine that deeply leverages the latest, rich data on 15,646 nursing homes published in January 2018 by Medicare’s Nursing Home Compare.  The press release is here, and the new, “front door” to the engine is at benchmine.com, shown here:benchmineOne of our goals is to bring the ultimate performance transparency to healthcare sectors, leveraging initially the tremendous work done by Medicare’s contractors, nursing-home inspectors, and nursing homes themselves to contribute data for public access.

To further this goal, we have chosen to make the service simple, quick, and especially affordable. To evaluate a single home, users pay $9 one-time with a credit card or Paypal. To evaluate any of the 15,646 nursing homes, pay $39. To perform queries that go across all nursing homes, pay $99. These payments give access to one quarterly edition of the engine. We expect to create new editions every quarter, using the latest published data. Read here about the features available at different price points, which support various roles within the nursing home industry.

Finally, I’ll emphasize that the benchmarking engine, which discovers comparative insights worth knowing and writes them up in perfect English, without injecting biased opinion anywhere, generates more words in its nursing-home application – around 80 million – within insightful sentences than are contained in the entire Oxford English Dictionary or the Encyclopedia Britannica.

But don’t let that volume scare you. Just as Google’s search engine stores nearly all the world’s web content, but brings you a manageable number of results, worth knowing, that are relevant to your query, so does a benchmarking engine!

Raul Valdes-Perez

Benchmarking the CDC 500 Cities on 28 Health Measures

The CDC’s 500 Cities Project recently published 28 health measures on the 500 largest U.S. cities (see them listed or mapped). The measures cover various resident behaviors, afflictions, medication, and screening. We at OnlyBoth downloaded the data and set up a cities benchmarking engine to answer these standard comparative questions: How is this city doing?, Where could it improve?, and What’s best in class?

Just enter any of the 500 cities at 500cities.onlyboth.com. Then click on a left-side question to discover noteworthy peer groups in which your selection is near the top or bottom. Or, set up a fencemarking query and click Go at the bottom to, for example, learn the top insights among all 121 California cities, or to uncover comparatively-high binge drinking there (guess who?).

To appreciate this technology and its simplifying potential to motivate human and customer progress, compare to how standard dashboards have been applied to the 500 Cities data. Or, to understand why dashboards aren’t really up to the task of comparative performance evaluation, check out Why San Mateo Daily Journal Really Doesn’t Like California’s Education Dashboards.

Lastly, if you also wish to benchmark counties, read here.

A sentence is worth 1,000 data.®

Raul Valdes-Perez

 

Where Does Automated Customer Benchmarking Make Sense?

A customer benchmarking engine is an emerging technology which uses an artificial intelligence approach to automate the reasoning that underlies data-driven benchmarking. Its benefits are discussed here, there, and elsewhere. Briefly, it uncovers comparative insights on customers which empower customer-focused employees to be more proactive, or which are shown directly to those customers as a premium information service. The business benefits include churn reduction, market differentiation, extra revenue, and deeper customer relationships.

But, automated customer benchmarking doesn’t always make sense. So where does it? Here I’ll summarize the criteria that we’ve learned from clients, trials, conferences, discussions, and analysis.800px-Street_Sign_with_ideas

Data. A single organization collects data on its business-customers’ traits, behaviors, business outcomes, and feedback, e.g., via surveys. Lack of data on customer outcomes narrows the scope of the insights, which may still have internal value for account management. Also, the organization should not be contractually prohibited from performing comparative analysis across customers, appropriately anonymized if the resulting insights are to be shown to customers. Evidently, the data shouldn’t be wrong or mostly missing.

Motivation. The organization should be B2B because consumers (B2C) are generally less motivated to improve, because they are less driven by external stakeholders. The same lack of strong motivation may be found if the B2B organization serves very small businesses, which are less prone to carry out performance analysis: if they are tiny but making money, then life is good, and if they’re losing money, there are more-urgent issues to address. Think of your small neighborhood restaurant, for example.

Also, the business process that the organization supports with its services should not be seen as a utility, meaning that customers only care that the service be available when they need it, and little or nothing more. Think of an internet connectivity service, for example.

A strong positive indicator of motivation is when customers themselves ask the vendor organization how they’re doing compared to other customers, where they could improve, etc.

Comparability. In principle, benchmarking only makes sense if the benchmarked entities are comparable. It makes little sense to benchmark an elephant against an armchair and an airplane. Comparable doesn’t mean identical or even similar, just productively worthy of comparison. For example, a business consultancy that brings the smartest people in the world to fix whatever problem you have, whether it’s a leaky roof, runny nose, or buggy software, won’t have comparable customers. An HR SaaS company does have comparable customers, even if its customers range from the Fortune 500 to startups and in between, because HR has common elements across companies of any size or industry: employee motivation, compensation, tenure, promotion, recruiting, dismissal, etc. Comparability is a judgment call, but most B2B vendor organizations do have comparable customers, otherwise it would be hard for them to scale their business.

Scale. A customer benchmarking engine is a powerful tool that scales beautifully with the number of customers. But, just as a search engine is probably overkill if you only possess 50 documents, or a receptionist is overkill if you have 5 employees, benchmarking 50 customers likely isn’t worth the trouble, even though the engine will do its job. Given the tradeoffs, we believe that about 150 is the right minimum number of customers for automated benchmarking to make sense.

It’s worth citing some false disqualifiers which are wrongly believed to invalidate customer benchmarking, automated or not. (1) Customers need not be concentrated by industry or segment, much less be competitors, since one is benchmarking the customer’s business process that is supported by the vendor organization’s service, not benchmarking the customer’s overall market performance. (2) The data suitable for benchmarking is rarely scarce. For example, if a given metric (employee satisfaction, say) is potentially insightful, then so is the quarterly change in that metric, since it expresses a trend. Ditto for the change when compared to the same quarter last year. Thus, the insightful metrics are easily tripled, based on changes over time, as we’ve discussed elsewhere. (3) Data need not be perfect; it never is. And the end-result of imperfect data is not a plane crash, but a misleading insight, which tends to be caught and discarded before significant action is undertaken.

Now let’s summarize the four qualifiers data, motivation, comparability, and scale in a single brief sentence:  A customer benchmarking engine makes sense for B2B organizations that generate rich data on its 150+ non-tiny customers as a by-product of its non-utility-like, repeatable service.

Who are these organizations?  B2B SaaS (software as a service), Industrial Internet of Things, BPO (business process outsourcing), Managed Services Provider, and 3rd-Party Administrator, are generally good matches if they fit the other criteria.

Automation doesn’t always make business sense, especially when the enabling technology lies outside one’s own organization, which circumstance always involves a coordination cost. But automation scales well and can enable things or insights that don’t yet exist. Apart from the benefits discussed elsewhere, this article shares what we’ve learned about where the emerging technology of customer benchmarking engines makes sense.

Raul Valdes-Perez

Not Having Strategic Conversations with Customers? Here’s How to Fix That

I keep hearing that “our Customer Success Managers need to have more strategic conversations with our customers.” I’ve heard this in numerous discussions with many customer success executives over the last year. And more recently, I continued to hear the same thing while attending customer success conferences and meetups in San Francisco, Toronto, Denver and Pittsburgh. This is a big problem. If CSMs aren’t having strategic conversations with key customers, it will be very difficult to proactively move their accounts forward in any significant way. This keeps us all up at night.

I want to share a technique that customer success executives can use to help CSMs be equipped for strategic conversations with key accounts. For years, I worked with newer product managers to help them think more strategically. The technique I used was to ask three key questions that pushed them to seek the fundamental knowledge and insights they need for effective strategy discussions.  Below, I’ll share and unpack these questions that I’ve adapted for customer success managers.

Three questions CSMs need to answer to engage in strategic customer conversations

1.  Where is your customer going?

Strategy is what one intends to do to move from its current state to a desired future state.  Therefore, a CSM’s readiness for strategic conversations must begin with knowledge of a customer’s objectives and goals. If a CSM doesn’t know where a customer is going, how can they have any hope of engaging that customer strategically? When your CSMs knows this answer – down to the level of the organizational unit that purchased your solutions – they can add value in several ways: (a) focusing attention on actions that will have the most impact on a customer’s goals; (b) providing meaningful guidance to a customer; (c) evaluating a customer’s progress and (d) demonstrating the value they’ve realized.  When a customer is lacking effective goals, a CSM can help them. I discussed how a CSM can do this in a recent blog post.

2.  How will your customer get there?

I’d want the CSM to understand three items: (a) the primary approach a customer is taking to get to their desired future state; (b) the initiatives the customer will take to execute it and when; and (c) the role our solutions play in this. This knowledge of their customer’s strategy is important for several value-adding tasks including:

  • Identifying opportunities to add value with your other existing products, services and programs
  • Anticipating and prioritizing unmet customer needs
  • Aligning the roadmaps for products, services and programs with the needs of key accounts
  • Relating the actual use of your products, modules and features to the customer’s desired outcomes
  • Sharing best practices and lessons learned from other customers with similar strategies

3.  Where is your customer today?

The current state of the customer is often the focus of a CSM. But, for this question, I’d want to know if a CSM understands how a customer is doing versus their goals and versus benchmarks created from the results achieved by other similar customers. More specifically, do they know (a) Where is the customer doing well? (b) Where could they improve? (c) What has changed? (d) Where have we helped them effectively? (e) Where have we held them back? When a CSM has these comparative insights, they have the basis for adding value in several more ways including: prompting exploration of the reasons behind the results; sharing potential remedies known to work with other customers; and demonstrating the additional value a customer has realized with a solution.

Make the questions a regular activity

Strategic conversations with customers begin with understanding the strategic context of a customer. If your CSMs need to have more strategic customer conversations, try asking these questions on a regular basis in your internal customer review meetings. Because of your interest, your CSMs will put more emphasis on getting this information and understanding it. Plus, you’ll gain opportunities to coach and develop their strategic thinking skills.  Ultimately, when your customers and Customer Success Managers are talking strategically, customers will move closer to their goals and you’ll move closer to your goals.

Jim Berardone