John Moore is leading Bupa’s Customer Lab – the global health and care company’s initiative to take advantage of innovation in Insuretech and Medtech to deliver an improved customer experience.

In fact, John has been responsible for the creation of the Customer Lab. At Innov8rs Paris, he will take share the learnings that shaped its design and what has worked and importantly what hasn’t during its first 2 years. We sat down with John to get a glimpse into his story.

Labs are often perceived as being the place where the sexy cool stuff happens; could you, in your words, share what the day-to-day looks like in the Bupa Customer Lab?

The thing that really makes us a little different is the use of the word “customer.” We deliberately avoided using words like digital or innovation. The whole idea of the customer lab is to deliver the best experiences to our customers- how to see things differently; how to behave differently, to better serve them.

If we look at its essence, the day-to-day is no different than any other corporate role. Our focus is on identifying the big pain points that our customers have and figuring out how solve for them.

For example, one of the projects we are working on today is the dental experience. Not only what happens when you go and see a dentist, but also what happens when you’re at home. So how do we actually help you? How do we solve intrinsic problems that are as simple as moms wanting to know if their kids are brushing their teeth properly?

Dentistry is a great one because when you actually pull it apart, one of the biggest issues people have with dentistry is that they’re scared of it. How do I help you feel comfortable going to the dentist when you believe it’s going to hurt a bit?

That’s one of the biggest questions we’re tackling: How do we help people to stay healthy? Because let’s be honest, as a big insurance provider, we have most of our interactions with our customers when they’re not feeling well, yet how do we also provide you with support when you are healthy?

Another area focus is very much on scanning and seeing what’s out there. We don’t believe that there is a start-up out there we could acquire or go into business with, that will replace what we have today.

We see the start-up community as providing innovative solutions to components of an overarching healthcare experience which will be both digital and analog.

So, the question becomes, how do we bring that together? It could be around diagnostics, health care management, virtual medical treatments, or even AI based coaching. Regardless, it will be part of an overall experience rather than a stand-alone.

Do the customers want and trust you, as an insurance company, to be part of their day-to-day choices and lives?

I think people’s biggest concern surrounding their health is the unknown. We don’t spend our live planning for a catastrophic illness to befall us or our loved ones. So, what people really want is someone to help them, be there for them, and guide them through what is a complicated process during a very stressful time.

I think that’s one of the places that Bupa stands out, because we’re not just an insurer; we have a position of trust in the markets where we operate. We are striving to have the conversation around our customers’ overall health and well-being, so I believe we’re definitely starting from a stronger position of trust than most players in the marketplace.

You have set ambitious goals. How big is your team?

We have a team of twelve, but the reality is, the team is not the team. The team is actually the business.

I’m not charged or tasked with coming up with an X Labs type thing; looking at what the future might be. We’re looking at adjacent businesses and things we can do today. The work we are doing is very much focused on the “today” but taking it into adjacent markets or opportunities. We aren’t trying to come up with something completely new from scratch.

We have a rule that we don’t do anything unless we have demand from what we call a Market Unit. The CEO of the Market Unit and a business sponsor have to both want it and be comfortable with us working the way we do in the lab. That particular nuance is quite important. It’s only with those two things, that level of sponsorship and that permission to work the way we want to that we’ll ever end up being successful.

What we like about Bupa is that it’s very much focused on the customer and solving problems we have today.

We’re not hoping that we find the next unicorn that will suddenly give us a great solution. For us, it’s being close to the customer and close to the business.

The biggest difference (compared to many other corporate labs) for me is starting from that position of true open-mindedness to understand what the real customer problem is. It is really that whole structured way, in which we get to what is really troubling the customer and figuring out how to solve for it.That’s probably the biggest ingredient in the secret sauce.

We put a lot of structure into what I call “true human-centered design work” up front. And as such, a lot of work goes into recruiting interesting people who will help us understand and design what could be possible.

You are helping your colleagues and the business to behave differently. Can you give me an example of the differences you are seeing or at least are working towards?

We created the Customer Lab not as a permanent structure but rather a catalyst for change. I think we now realize that all corporates need to have multiple ways of working and they need to choose the appropriate way that makes sense for each individual problem.

A lot of it is really the openness to have the conversation up front. Say we decided that a certain segment was not taking up our insurance product. The traditional way of working would be to start trying to understand why they’re not taking it up and so forth.

A more open way – what I call working with a “Lab Mentality” – would be to start with the premise that it doesn’t even have to be insurance; it could be something else. It’s that willingness and openness to put a little more time into the upfront problem without just starting into an adaptation of what we have today.

Looking back at the last year, what was the most difficult thing and how did you manage to overcome it?

Strangely, the most difficult thing is that the world of health care has multiple parties you need to align to make something successful. If you’re in banking or some such, your core thing is to build a solution between you and the customer. In healthcare, you have a customer, a provider, and a payer. It might even be multiple parties paying for it. So probably the biggest challenge I think we face is: How do we how do we get change through an ecosystem when it really is a triangle?

I wish I could say we’ve cracked it, but we haven’t. I think that is the ultimate challenge in healthcare. How do you connect the pieces to come to a solution?

What we’re seeing in this ecosystem is lots and lots of stand-alone solutions. I’ve met with two today. One who’s looking at a really good solution for hypertension and another one that’s looking at dealing with chronic pain.

The challenge is that neither the consumer nor the physician is really that interested in having 26 different solutions – one that manages my weight, one that manages my hypertension, one that manages my diabetes, one that manages appendicitis, and so on. Unfortunately, that’s sort of what we’re getting.

We’re are only just seeing the desire to build these solutions in an open way so that they can all be interconnected. It’s a very difficult chicken/egg problem because the reality is we move through the various pieces, we don’t just start and stop with one.

What achievement in the last two years are you most proud of?

That’s an easy one. It is the willingness we’ve had to invest in understanding core customer problems.

It’s been crucial to have both the permission and commitment from our board and our executive team as well as our local markets- it truly has enabled us to actually go out there and be piloting and trialing things.

It has allowed us to have a comfort with accepting when things haven’t worked. Fail fast doesn’t work in healthcare so you don’t think that way, but you need to evolve fast.

It is because we did start with core problems and interests of the business that the stuff that we’ve worked on has actually gone out, and is all in live stages. The actual impact, seeing these results- that’s why I started in the first place.