Health Plans

Scale Empathy and Inspire Action through CX Storytelling


PUBLISHED: 5/13/2022

Developing a Customer Experience (CX) culture is an immense task and an essential step towards developing a company-wide CX Strategy. This is especially true for many large, legacy health plan organizations.

Decades of independently developed systems, evolving departments and advancing technology have led to a fractured view of the end-to-end customer experience. Despite this obstacle, customer experience improvement is paramount as a point of differentiation for legacy health plan organizations. However, there is a gap between the aspiration of CX improvement and what it requires to get there. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of CX and Marketing leaders to strategically bridge that gap. 

Many leaders that are charged with CX transformation are facing the following: 

  • Departments and functions are siloed 
  • Their CX teams can only cover so much ground across an organization
  • Colleagues have very little time, if any, to do anything outside of their current job responsibilities 
  • Changes to legacy systems require massive investments
  • There is a limited understanding of what is actually happening to an organization’s customers in the real world

So, as a CX and Marketing leader, how do you foster a CX culture when you have so much to overcome? How can you move your colleagues to make meaningful CX improvements without having to move organizational mountains?

You start by scaling empathy for customers and inspiring grassroots action through CX Storytelling. 

Human stories are what will engage your colleagues' hearts while connecting them to essential parts of your organization's customer experience. And according to Forrester, when leaders tell effective stories, they create belief around their work—there’s no faster or more human way to align people to action.

Based upon our experience working with legacy health plan organizations, MERGE has some recommendations to bring your customer's stories to life.


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Identify the Hot Topics

What would be the most important, most compelling customer stories you would want every member of your organization to hear? The stories you share must inspire your colleagues to take action.

View these stories through the lens of your organization's business needs. If you're in a fortunate position where you have access to customer experience metrics, like satisfaction scores or a VoC platform that connects customer data to specific customer touchpoints, you're already well on your way towards figuring out how to proceed.

However, even with access to valuable data, you need alignment from leadership and cross-functional teams to prioritize what matters most—and identify, as we call them, the hot topics. This could be an issue such as a doctor finder that falls short of patients' expectations or health plan members receiving surprise bills from what are seen as routine treatments. 

If you're starting out and don't have access to customer data or metrics, we guarantee you there are persisting customer experience issues that will rise to the surface through everyday project work. 

Whatever the topic, be sure to analyze it from the perspective of what is imperative to the customer, the business and the brand. It's important to weave these needs together because it holistically justifies and prioritizes decisions. 

But even after this, you'll still need more clarity on those potential hot topics. 

Consider performing internal stakeholder interviews to probe for a deeper understanding. Additionally, while you uncover the backstory, you'll find potential partners to enlist on your CX development journey—they are essential for the next step.

Align Cross-Functionality

Once you gain an understanding of your organization's hot topics, it is necessary to begin this process with cross-functional alignment.

It can be difficult to achieve but is crucial for long-term planning so your colleagues become open to listening to the CX stories you deliver. You need your cross-functional partners to think it's well worth dedicating their team members' time to learn about customer stories.

No matter if this is achieved over the course of one hour or one day, the time you take here is very important to clarifying your path forward and building trust. Asking for your colleagues' valuable time to make decisions is not for the faint of heart, but by creating opportunities for ownership your colleagues will be much more open to changes that these customer stories lead to. 

Research Your Customers

Now is the time to find real customer stories that your colleagues must hear. Exactly how to proceed from this point entirely depends on your team's capabilities, availability and budget—along with access to vendor partners.

You want customer stories that can be directly tied back to elements of your organization's customer experience. Your colleagues should be able to directly draw a line from customer problems or successes to what their everyday responsibilities are. This step is imperative because it starts the process that intertwines an employee's everyday decisions with the resulting impact they have on the customer experience.  

It's vital to approach the customer interviews themselves with a storytelling mindset. There are many different ways to approach customer interviews, whether for validation, usability testing or concept generation. You're here to find stories, not bullet points. Let your customers talk so they can "paint you a picture" about what matters to them.

Craft Engaging Customer Stories

Good stories have structure. Think back to any great movie that's made you feel for a character. Think of the great stories you love hearing from your friends and family.

In the simplest of ways, every great story has three basic parts: a beginning, a middle and an end. When you apply this to crafting customer stories, their experiences and conflicts provide the plot points to the compelling narrative that you wish to share. They become the character you care about, the one who faces and overcomes obstacles. And all along the way, your colleagues should be rooting for them to achieve a resolution at the end.

Joseph Campbell’s "Hero's Journey" is one example of a narrative structure that is incredibly useful when figuring out how to structure stories about customers going on a personal and transformative journey. Along with Kurt Vonnegut’s "Shape of Stories," these are terrific resources to craft stories that will inspire your colleagues. 

Design Scalable Assets & Experiences

The first question you must ask when thinking about how to deliver customer stories is, who is my audience?

Consider how much time they have, what media and technology they're comfortable with and what kind of organizational platforms they regularly access. There is only so much ground all of you can cover in addition to your current CX focused responsibilities. It is essential to take a diversified approach to translating your customer stories into various scalable assets and experiences. 

Begin with the following:


  • CX Persona Posters focus on a single "character" to humanize patterns of needs and behaviors uncovered through your customer research. It's a simple and visually compelling asset that can easily be screen shared, projected or printed out and presented as a large-scale poster within a space. This serves CX teams well when given short notice to advocate for customers during a meeting, and can be used by eager project teams to reference customer needs throughout ongoing CX improvement projects.
  • Customer Story Videos focus on your organization's hot topics and are relevant to your organization’s priorities, delivered in a format that is extremely engaging without the need for presentations or voice overs. These are ideal for sharing across digital platforms within your organization and can be used for co-creation sessions. Customer Story Videos also enable you to craft and steer a repeatable message for your organization.
  • An Empathy Immersion Workshop Toolkit helps teams deliver repeatable events for colleagues to engage with your customer story assets. A toolkit facilitates experiences that inspire customer empathy, one workshop at a time.

No matter what combination of assets is right for your organization, it's important to have resources at your fingertips. Once you begin gaining momentum, you will continuously be asked at a moment's notice to show up to events as your customer’s advocate. Give you and your team a chance to quickly impact your entire organization by using scalable assets that inspire empathy beyond your presence.

Track Action & Impact

You and your leadership will want to know how your customer stories have inspired your colleagues to take action. Consider interviewing stakeholders who have engaged with your assets and workshops. 

Just like your customers, listen to what they have to say without judgment or bias. Collect their stories as good examples that you can use to encourage other members of your organization to engage with your customer stories. This an opportunity to create a feedback loop that will strengthen your relationship with your colleagues and make your offerings better for your entire organization.

Those internal stories will also be essential points of data to help continue and increase yearly claims for budget. In theory, you want these stories to help you foster a CX culture that will help you to continuously grow in strategic influence, resources and impact. 

How MERGE Can Help

CX and Marketing leaders along with their teams are the core customer advocates for their entire organization, but there is only so much that a few people can do across an organization at once. This demands time and a dedicated skill set to bring it to life.


Contact us at MERGE so we can engage with your organization and bring your CX stories to life.