Posts Tagged ‘customer service’

Lessons Learned from Fast Food Service Relevant for Healthcare Customer Engagement

April 9, 2014

The focus for hospitals and physician practices has been to deliver excellent customer service to engage patients and visitors. Which is fine, as far as that went.

Focusing on just customer service by itself is passé in today’s fast moving world. Customer engagement is the marketing tool that hospitals and physician practices are wisely embracing. Simply put, that means that in addition to delivering excellent customer service, your communications with customers – patients, visitors and even employees – need to be done in an engaging, ongoing manner. It’s about more than just communicating information. You want to pull them in with frequent two-way conversations in order to develop successful relationships.

Recently, I was engaged on a retail level by Chick-Fil-A regarding their Founder Truett Cathy. I received an email that it was his birthday and was urged to join them in wishing him a happy birthday. Because I absolutely love their food and have a great deal of admiration for Mr. Cathy and the brand he has developed, I took a moment – on my phone – to send him a birthday greeting. I received a reply thanking me and inviting me to join them soon for a meal. This was a very simple, but effective, means of engaging me as a customer and leaving me with a warm feeling towards this company – and their brand.

The beauty is, that if done correctly, what works for your customer, will work for your healthcare practice or hospital. One simple way is to use social media to make it easy for them to contact you online and give them options. Get patient input on how to enhance quality improvement. Give them ways to interact with you on their schedule. Remember, it’s a mobile society and customers are constantly seeking information and resolution 24-hours a day. Create positive experiences and outcomes for them. The more you interact in helping to solve their issues, the more loyalty you create for your hospital or physician practice.

And, yes, I am planning on visiting my neighborhood Chick-Fil-A for a meal soon!

Creating More Successful Brands

December 10, 2010

In hospital marketing, we talk a lot about strategies and objectives, different media vehicles, public relations, physician relations, administrators, budgets and budget cuts.

All things Brian Parsley, the final speaker at this year’s CHPRMS fall conference, didn’t touch. His topic was us. The marketers. The coordinators. The PR specialists. The VP’s. The people behind the positions.

Brian is part entrepreneur, stand-up comic, dot com survivor and one time chicken-cutter-upper. His message ranged widely, but touched on a handful of points that we, as people and as healthcare marketers, should embrace to achieve greater success.

People have choices.
People choose where they spend their money (or co-pay). Businesses have to care about acquisition and retention. One tweet I saw earlier this week by Eric Brody contrasted a morning doctor’s office experience with an afternoon visit to a Trader Joes. The difference? He blogged that he felt appreciated at Trader Joes; the exact opposite of how he felt earlier in the day at the doctor’s office. The ultimate question today is not how satisfied patients and customers are, but would they recommend us to someone they cared about?

It’s not about selling services and products.
It’s 100% about serving others. The more you serve the more you win. Brian talked about the honeymoon phase of a relationship and what makes it so good. It’s not the newness; it’s the willingness to reciprocate. Loving customers is something more and more brands are becoming known for: Zappos, Five Guys Burgers and Fries, Southwest Airlines, and, more locally, Chick-fil-a. Their philosophies are customer-centered and strive to provide the best experience possible.

Brands are managed, not owned.
Brands are no longer limited to ads and buildings or stores; they’re everywhere. They are things, people, even feelings. Brands are written into e-mails, websites, collateral and social media. They are verbalized in voicemail messages and answering systems. There are even visual brands: how we carry ourselves, how connected we are to our live and work communities. Our personal brands are our reputations. Our personnel are a brand’s reputation.

Take care of customers; they take care of you.
Patients tell other patients. Moms talk to other moms. Word of mouth marketing is a very powerful marketing tool. Brian shared the experience of a physician practice that implemented a “patient first” policy where patients are given exceedingly good service from the front desk all the way to checkout and beyond. The whole practice was rewired for customer service. Not surprisingly, their referrals went through the roof. Make it easier for people to do business with you.

Build your value.
Know and live your values. Look at your willingness to serve other people. Don’t rely on excuses. Get better at social intelligence. Know you can always bounce back. Learn to love criticism and learn from it.

Be persistent.
Not sure if this is verifiable, but it sure feels right: 80% of all yeses happen between the 5th and the 22nd contact.

Communicate better.
However you communicate and whatever you communicate, you’re sharing a story. Many times, stories are retold, while facts are forgotten. Stories entertain in rich detail and create a vicarious experience.

It was an inspiring hour and a great way to close CHPRMS where so much of the conference centers on “talking shop.”

As Brian spoke, I found it very easy to think about what he was saying in the context of both my work life and personal life. We hear a lot these days about how brands need to interact with their customers. But it’s not just interaction we crave, there needs to be meaning, too.

Do we really want more from brands? Or do we want more from ourselves? It’s worth thinking about.

You can connect with Brian on Twitter or Facebook.

How would an independent pharmacy have handled this?

April 30, 2010

I recently had an experience with a national retail pharmacy that got me wondering: would an independent pharmacy have handled my situation differently?

As a life-long, type one diabetic, I take an insulin shot every day, every time I eat. Without a shot, my body cannot function and it could prove fatal. I was going out of town the following week and noticed I was low on insulin. My insulin is not a stock item and usually takes a few days to fill because it has to be ordered from a wholesaler. I called the pharmacy’s IVR line on Wednesday and ordered a refill. I supplied a phone number in case of a problem and the IVR stated the prescription would be ready Friday.

When I went to pick it up Saturday, a pharmacy tech informed me that their distributor no longer carries the insulin and she could order it from another. I couldn’t help but wonder two things. First, why hasn’t this already happened? It doesn’t matter to me which distributor supplies medicine. My price is the same. And second, if there was a problem, why didn’t they call? They had my number. Regardless, I told the tech they could order it but I needed the insulin the next day.

At this, she said she couldn’t get the insulin until Monday because it’s not stocked and the wholesaler doesn’t deliver weekends. She offered to transfer my prescription to another pharmacy.  Frustrated, because I’d ordered the refill in plenty of time to avoid this scenario, what happened next made the whole event worse.

Rather than make an effort to correct a customer service lapse, I felt patronized and it really struck a nerve.

This scenario is what sets independent pharmacies apart from volume-driven big box retailers. I work with independent pharmacies that take the extra step and understand, no matter how many customers they have, each one is important.

We all are human. Things happen. But it’s the consideration and value placed on another human being that makes a difference. If you go to a big box pharmacy, look behind the counter. If you were in an independent pharmacy, the person standing behind that counter is probably the business owner. And I’ll bet you a thousand $4 prescriptions, he cares if you come back to his pharmacy.


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