“The customer is always right” is probably the biggest truism in business, yet it bears repeating, especially now, post-election. And the recent Healthcare Internet Conference was a good reminder about the value of hearing and understanding that no matter what the customer tells you – good or bad – there’s enough truth in their feedback to warrant our attention and action. HCIC took place smack dab in the middle of the 2016 election in sunny Las Vegas, and for the first two days, the conference attendees exuded a high energy level. We were all smart, engaged and like-minded professionals who came to learn about the latest strategies in digital engagement. But on the third day, some of us found out that we didn’t know what we thought we knew. We found out that our assumptions were wrong and the world had shifted, for the worse. Others of us found out we were validated. The world had shifted for the better and we were energized. But all of us, assuming we watched the election, found out what the customers thought. And ultimately, this is a good thing. Too few organizations really and truly listen to their customers, and even fewer try to talk with them in ways that matter. That is why the promise of customer relationship management (CRM) is so exciting and its implementation potentially so baffling – your customers are a diverse group with different opinions; it’s incumbent on us to listen (at least if we want to stay ahead of our competition), and to figure out which of those things are the most important and how to respond. HCIC had a separate CRM track, and not surprisingly, sessions had robust attendance. Several people with whom I spoke specifically mentioned they were there to learn more about the CRM landscape. At Primacy we get it. Our session, Leveraging the Power of Data Visualization: Your Brand Health in a Single View, co-presented with Middlesex Hospital was premised on the idea that the insights gleaned from data were the foundation of a CRM strategy. Getting into the mindset of a potential patient and discovering exactly what motivates him or her to select a doctor, or a service, has real potential to change how we provide those services. That’s exciting for the patient who will get better care, and for us marketers, who’ll be there in the right moment, anticipating the patient’s needs, demonstrating our relevance and implicit value to that patient. But CRM is baffling too, in its complexity to implement and its potential to blow up our expectations about what the customer wants or needs. Here’s an example: a healthcare truism is that patients need help navigating our sprawling health care system. And to help them, marketers expend a ton of energy creating guides, tutorials, content and even wayfinding devices to help guide them. But what if patients don’t want help navigating? What if instead they just want help selecting? What if they don’t want know about all of their choices and the pros and cons of each; what if they only want for us to say, do this. That’s an insight that only comes with listening, and it could potentially upend how you deliver information to patients. Many industries have already undergone the transition to having a full-fledged CRM implemented and are actively listening to and engaging with their audiences. Healthcare is not quite there yet – but we will, sooner rather than later, embrace CRM. And when that happens, we’ll learn the art of hearing, and give patients what they want.