Whatcha gonna do when the flu comes for you?
You’re sick in bed, feeling like crap (headache, aches and pains). You lack the energy to get up and make yourself a cup of coffee or breakfast, let alone get in your car and drive to the nearest pharmacy to pick up some cold medication.
That's the customer problem Walgreens decided it would help solve for its customers by creating a partnership with TaskRabbit (essentially an online service where you can pay people to run errands for you) this past flu season.
The flu season peaks during the months of October thru February, with the highest reported cases typically falling in the months of December and January – right around the holidays. So it’s no surprise that a large percentage of the roughly $7 billion in annual sales occurs during this time period, making it the “holiday shopping season” for cold medications, too.
From year to year, the number of reported cases during this peak period, measured as the percentage of outpatient visits for influenza-like illness, ranges from 2% to 6% of all outpatient visits. And according to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), this past flu season was one of the worst in a decade.
When a runny nose and a cough sounds like an opportunity to innovate.
Your customers want and need your products, but they don’t want to come to you. Your distribution system is built around physical, retail outlets – you can’t easily get to them. And your newest competitors (yep, looks like Amazon competes with Walgreens too) can get your customers what they need in a day or two, delivered to their door.
This is why Walgreens, in partnership with TaskRabbit, ran a six-week campaign for “delivery of cold medications right to your doorstep.” Make life easier for your customers, deny your competitors additional business, and potentially reach a new audience (Task Rabbit customers who don’t go to Walgreens…)
As part of their joint press release, TaskRabbit stated, “TaskRabbit was founded on the premise of neighbors helping neighbors — and there’s no time when we need more help than when we’re sick. That’s why we are so excited about this partnership.” And, Walgreens Group VP Robert Tompkins said this first of its kind agreement is an example of “how Walgreens is transforming the customer experience to help people get, stay and live well.”
An innovation technique anyone can use: “Task Unification.”
Using the innovation technique of task unification, Walgreens brought two independent product and service offerings together as a single, unified customer experience. By integrating TaskRabbit services with Walgreens cold and flu products, they delivered a new innovative customer experience which directly served a significant unmet need: simple and easy home delivery of cold medications (or anything else for that matter) to anyone suffering from the cold during a particularly brutal flu season.
The way it worked was pretty straightforward. They took a slice of TaskRabbit’s app-based “Task Wheel” of service options, dedicating a Task request to "Walgreens - Cold and Flu Relief Fast." All the user had to do was tap the Walgreen's branded task from the menu, select the nearest Walgreen's store, their cold medication of choice and a preferred delivery time, and TaskRabbit delivered the product to their door. Done.
The customer is on their way to feeling better, and Walgreens delivers on the customer experiences that its brand promises: "At the corner of Happy & Healthy".
Innovation-driven service design: Simple, easy and effective.
The Walgreens/TaskRabbit partnership proves that innovation doesn't have to be complex, or “transformative.” Sometimes innovation can be as simple as integrating two things that already exist, but currently aren’t offered together as a single integrated product and/or service offering.
In this case, Walgreens ended up just "better promoting" an already existing service during the cold and flu season. Of course, a little website and app development was required (but hey – that’s often the easiest part these days).
So the next time you identify an unmet customer need, think of ways you can leverage existing products and services to meet them – even if those services aren’t yours, or exist outside your industry. Looking for ways to innovate beyond the walls of your organization and your current capabilities can open the door to new and innovative ways of serving your customers.
Cost effectively differentiating from your competition, expanding your market and meeting previously unmet customer needs. That’s incremental innovation any customer can appreciate – and any executive can support.
Author: John Gusiff - John is head of CX Design and Architecture at McorpCX where he leverages CX innovation and design methods to help cross-functional teams come together to co-create new innovative customer experiences.