Keeping consumers top of mind has always been a big part of the ethos at Hims & Hers, a direct-to-consumer telehealth platform. Hilary Coles, co-founder and VP of product, says that the consumers’ needs are at the heart of everything the company does.
Before COVID-19, the company was well-known for its subscription products on sexual wellness, hair loss, and skincare (along with its distinctive, millennial aesthetic branding). “We had a really fast-growing business in those categories — we’re mostly a subscription business, we’re focused on less urgent conditions,” says Coles.
But one of the many lessons that 2020 has taught the world is just how critical a robust healthcare system is to one’s quality of life and safety. For companies in the healthcare space, challenges to setting business goals also came with many opportunities to provide value when their customers desperately needed it. That’s the approach that direct-to-consumer telehealth platform Hims & Hers accelerated when COVID-19 hit.
The company started providing virtual primary care, a Spanish-speaking telemedicine health service, a COVID-testing kit, and group therapy service. In October 2020, the company announced it would go public via a Special Purpose Acquisition Company (SPAC) with investment company Oaktree Capital Management.
The company’s CEO and co-founder, Andrew Dudum, told CNBC, “We’ve taken a roadmap that was two to three years long and compressed it in a few months.”
When COVID-19 hit, many states across the country issued stay-at-home orders. Suddenly, the healthcare system was stretched to its limit, with its workers facing unprecedented pressures. But as the virus continued to plague the world, so did other health issues. “What we were hearing from our consumers was that the UTIs, bug bites, the colds, and flus didn’t stop just because of the pandemic.” The company started looking at what they have built over the past three years in their ecosystem. “It was this network of highly trained providers,” says Coles, and proprietary EMR (short for Electronic Medical Records). Coles said the company quickly realized they were in the position to provide primary care. They thought, “Who better than us to rise to the occasion and help alleviate some of the stress, anxiety, and uncertainty that our consumers are facing?”
Launching new services in the middle of a global pandemic
In March of 2020, as the company transitioned to a remote-first operation, Hims & Hers launched a primary care telehealth service for non-emergency health issues. A month later, they launched a tool specifically for Spanish speakers. They then entered the mental health space, first by launching anonymous support group sessions. The sessions, run by licensed therapists, covered everything from tackling relationships, management, and parenting. Not long after, they introduced an online psychiatry evaluation and medication platform. The company released talk individual online therapy services in July 2021.
“COVID-19 absolutely fast tracked our offering both for primary care and mental health,” says Coles. “The comparison I use with consumers and COVID-19 is like almost the tide came out. Whatever was hiding beneath the surface became apparent for everybody. Things aren’t normal for anybody — whether the pandemic has unearthed relationship issues, happiness at work, addiction issues, newfound anxiety and depression — everyone is kind of exposed.”
The business goal for Hims & Hers, Coles says, is to “be that friendly front door, be that place where people feel confident to walk through the door.” Coles admits that had COVID-19 not happened and hit the world the way it did, the company might have “navel-gazed” a little longer, particularly when it came to their mental health offering. However, she says that when COVID-19 hit, “It felt like the urgency had changed.”
One OKR to guide the company
Hims & Hers has been using Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) as a tool since its early days as a company, though Coles says it wasn’t until the second year that she saw the benefits. Initially, she admits to being hesitant about OKRs. Perceived formal processes, she says, have a bad rap of “inserting more clunkiness into a fast-moving, usually pretty speedy system.” During the company’s early days, Coles says, things were moving a “million miles a minute,” and because the company’s size was small enough “to fit in one room,” they didn’t necessarily need a formal tracking system. But as the company grew in size and ambition, discipline and rigor became necessary, and OKRs became a useful tool for business goal setting.
When it comes to setting Objectives, Hims & Hers sets one goal that the entire company works towards. They don’t have a specific timeline. In the past, the company has taken its time — from a quarter to half a year — to hit their Key Results. Once the company sets an Objective, it’s then up to the individual teams to decide how they will structure their goals and day-to-day operations regarding how they ladder up to that goal, Coles says.
Leadership meets every morning to assess progress on those Objectives, and Coles says that because many of their Key Results have been “hyper-quantitative,” it’s been easy to assess whether or not the company is on track to achieve that Objective. In 2020, that Objective was to make this year “The Year Of The Customer.” Linda O’Connor, the company’s senior communications manager, said in an email, “We really wanted our customers/patients to feel like we had their back and were there to take care of them given this year has been so difficult for most.” One Key Result for that Objective is Net Promoter Score — a metric often used to measure customer satisfaction based on how likely the customer would recommend a product or a service, with 100 being the top score. 2016 data by Accenture showed that healthcare providers — at a score of 9% — have some of the lowest NPS scores compared to other industries. Hims & Hers, according to the company’s investor presentation, is currently at 65%.
Coles says the OKRs that have served the company the best “are the ones we’ve talked about all day and every day… They infiltrate every (part of) the business.” If the leadership team isn’t talking about that OKR at the start of the day, she says, “it’s probably not mission-critical,” and a sign that the Objective isn’t in line with the company’s long-term mission.
Being streamlined and minimalist with your goals
As an initially reluctant adoptee of OKRs, Coles says that before adopting a specific tool, businesses “should be thinking about how their team operates and performs best.” There’s a preconception that as companies get bigger, they have to become “real adults” and implement formal processes. “If you strip that away, all the excel grids and templates that you see online, and you just focus on what the company needs to do and ladder back from that,” Coles says, OKRs can become a tool that helps a company succeed.
That mindset has helped Hims & Hers stay focused on the long-game, despite having to be reactive because of the pandemic. “We are extremely clear about the future of the company, and that’s to be the front door of the healthcare system for hundreds of conditions.” It also helps to have employees who know and use the product. “Our employees, families, and friends are our customers.”
When it comes to treating and alleviating chronic conditions,“we’re really just starting to skim the surface,” says Coles. “Even COVID, which is obviously unprecedented and all the buzzwords, hasn’t changed our focus whatsoever.”
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