customer service

Hospital Marketing: The Future of our Brand is Determined by Random Contacts with the Patient

The brands that top the charts in customer experience are also winning the loyalty battle.

Forrester Research recently released its list of top brands for customer service.  Surveying over 4600 U.S. consumers about their customer experiences, Barnes and Noble topped the list.  Others making the top five were Marriott Hotels, Hampton Inn, Amazon and Holiday Inn Express.  At the bottom of the list were Charter Communications, United Healthcare and Citigroup. (A complete list can be seen here).

It’s always interesting to see how consumers rate businesses in regard to their customer service experiences.  And to examine what businesses do to improve their customer service.  It’s also interesting to see the correlation between customer service and other brand attributes.

One thing we know is there is a strong correlation between customer experience and brand loyalty.  Those companies that deliver superior customer service also build strong brand loyalty.  The brand image and perception are largely determined at the point it interacts with the customer.  Brand loyalty is determined at the point of customer contact.

As hospital marketers, this is invaluable information. We often put our emphasis on technology, convenience, services and a host of other things.  But how much emphasis are we putting on that point of customer contact?  What is happening when our brand interacts with the patient and the patient’s family?  Brand loyalty is being determined at those random points of contact.  The future of our brand is determined during these interactions.

This is undoubtedly the most difficult thing to control.  There are so many within our organization that have contact with the patient and each one of them can make or break the experience.  It’s very difficult to control all of these contacts.  But it is imperative that we create a culture, an environment, where there is consistent attention and a strong emphasis on positive customer service. Yes technology, convenience, services and a host of other things are important, but in a consumer-directed economy, customer service is at the top.  The customer experience will determine how our brand is viewed and if there is any brand loyalty.

Barnes and Noble and the other companies at the top of the list make great effort to create a customer-friendly atmosphere and attempt to deliver the highest level of customer service.  They make it their corporate culture.  The future of our own brand largely depends on how well we create that culture within our organizations.


Hospital Marketing: Lessons Learned from Zappos

Hospital Sign buttonThe value of a company is not just in revenues and bottom line numbers, but in the status of the brand.

The online retail giant, Amazon, agreed to purchase Zappos for just under a billion dollars. Why would the giant pay so much for a shoe retailer? Pete Blackshaw, Executive VP of Neilson Online Digital Strategic Services, pointed out in an article in Advertising Age that the value of Zappos was driven by customer service and employee advocacy. Amazon, who knows quite a bit about customer service, was willing to pay quite a price for a company that excelled in the details of customer service and who empowered their employees to always put the customer first.

True, hospitals are not often positioning themselves to fetch a huge sales price in the open market. But the value of a hospital is determined by its brand equity. Everyday consumers are making a decision whether a hospital is worth his/her time and resources. And they are making that decision on what kind of service they receive. They are determining if your brand is worth it or not.           

Blackshaw says Zappos is obsessed over a different set of numbers. They are consumed with providing outstanding customer service. They seek feedback at every level. They want to know what the consumer experience is and fix anything that prevents the customer from having a perfect customer service experience.

How many hospitals are tenacious about customer service? How many hospitals explore, examine and experiment with the details of their interactions with the consumer? Too many hospitals, I’m afraid, really don’t want to know the truth in the details. Too many hospitals are satisfied to provide adequate, but not outstanding, service. Yes, it is painstaking – it’s hard work. But it certainly paid off handsomely for Zappos. And it will pay off for those hospitals that get dirty in the details and are committed to providing outstanding patient experiences.

“Zappos, Powered By Service.” What hospital could dare use a branding line like that? 


Hospital Marketing: Get Out Of Town!

Hospital Sign w ArrowEvery CEO, every marketer should sample his or her own product. But employees prevent them from seeing the truth.

A hospital CEO or marketer gets sick and has to be admitted to the hospital. GREAT! Now they can sample their product. But can they?

Probably every employee knows all the occupants of the executive suites, so when they appear at the hospital as a patient, they get the best room, the most attention and an extra dose of care.  So unfortunately their experience is not at all the experience that is common for other patients. 

I have a friend who was a hospital administrator who became ill out of town and had to go to the hospital. In that hospital, no one knew him so he didn’t receive the ‘special’ care that’s given to an insider or known VIP.

He said it really opened his eyes. He saw everything entirely differently. He noticed dust bunnies, dirty vents, cold food, hard beds, cracked paint, inattentive staff, slow response and conflicting information from various care providers.

His first thought was pride that his hospital was not run this way. And then he questioned if he could really say that. His experience at his own hospital was that of a special person. And he wondered if indeed this non-VIP treatment was exactly what if was like for those who visited his hospital. Needless to say, he came back with a renewed zeal to emphasize customer service.

Every hospital executive and manager should try in everyway possible to see things through the eyes of the patient. It’s easy to get so caught up in establishing procedures and rules to help lower costs and increase productivity, satisfy physicians, adhere to mandated guidelines and a zillion other things. And forget to see how the patient experiences the brand.

Every effort should be made to see it as the patient sees it. And because that has it’s limitations, patient satisfaction surveys, community perception surveys and even casual talk by former patients should be taken seriously.

Otherwise, maybe the only way we will see the truth is to get out of town.