Unlocking "Household DNA" to Deliver a Personalized Customer Experience in Health and Human Services

By Frey, Rachel | Policy & Practice, April 2016 | Go to article overview

Unlocking "Household DNA" to Deliver a Personalized Customer Experience in Health and Human Services


Frey, Rachel, Policy & Practice


We all have a unique combination of characteristics that make us individuals: our employment history, financial circumstances, and educational background, among other things. The environment in which we live, where we live, and with whom we live further shapes us as individuals. Moreover, we exhibit specific behaviors in our reactions to different situations. Taken together, these characteristics and dispositions make up a kind of distinct profile that we call "household DNA."

Delivering personalized, outcome-based services that aren't cost prohibitive has long been the holy grail in health and human services (HHS). With the adoption of efforts such as real-time eligibility and mobile applications, increases in home placements and care, and the never-ending need to do more with less, face-to-face interactions with clients have been declining. These changes are driving HHS agencies to rely more heavily on digitized information, and even more so, on client and household insights from what clients and other sources provide. With the growth and availability of data, we have entered a period in which agencies are able to utilize an individual's or household's DNA to help provide personalized customer experiences.

Exposing Individual and Household DNA

Take the case of Jennifer, for example. When Jennifer requests services, a lot of what we know about her and her household stems from what she has reported. Her application data may be augmented with data from other state, federal, or third-party sources or anywhere she may have left a digital footprint. While agencies may capture Jennifer's data in a way that supports speed and accuracy, the data are not always presented in a way that easily exposes her individual or household DNA.

With this initial set of data the agency captured, what does it know about Jennifer's DNA? Is she working? If she is, how many hours? Is someone in the house receiving child support? Have people moved in and out of the house? Are there income fluctuations or personal safety issues? Are the kids in school full time? What about how Jennifer completed the application--did she enter her answers quickly, change her responses to certain questions, or complete it in a certain location or at a certain point in the day? While aggregating these data may move us closer to a 360-degree view of Jennifer, it doesn't go far enough. It stops short of providing much needed guidance for what services and types of interactions are likely to have the most impact for Jennifer and her household, based on her DNA. It also does not indicate what parts of her DNA matter the most for her current situation and the future.

Segmenting Customers with DNA Commonalities

While each of us has our own unique DNA profile, we also share commonalities with others at different points in our lives. Commonalities may stem from financial or nonfinancial characteristics, how individuals interact with agencies, and other lifestyle behaviors. Some of these change over an individual's lifetime while others remain constant. By grouping clients according to their individual or household DNA commonalities, distinct clusters or segments emerge. These customer segments offer agencies insight into the distinct attributes of different customer groups they serve. They can use these insights to determine individual service needs based on the desired outcome sought and the most effective method and frequency of communication. More broadly, segmentation can help them better understand the needs of the population they serve and how those needs and preferences may evolve over time.

How might this apply to Jennifer? In her 18th month of assistance, Jennifer reports that her employer has reduced her hours by 10 hours a week and her husband has moved out. How has Jennifer's DNA changed? How does she align with the individual and household DNA segments based on her latest changes? …

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