Hospital Branding: The difference between customer service and human service

Hospital Branding: The difference between customer service and human service

For years, marketers involved in the branding of healthcare organizations have been frustrated about their role in delivering on customer service.  In essence, delivering on the brand promise.  Unlike traditional consumer goods and services, where the customer transaction can be standardized – think hot burgers and personal shoppers – healthcare organizations have multiple layers of customer interactions which fall on the ability of individuals, not processes, to deliver.  Additionally, healthcare consumers are not necessarily customers by choice.  There are some exceptions to this, but for the most part it’s not where and how people want to spend their time. As a result of this inability to control the delivery of customer service across the total enterprise, hospitals have looked for other brand platforms that can be more consistent.  Technology, clinical breakthroughs, quality rankings, and national accreditations are examples of common hospital branding strategies that don’t necessarily demand the consistent delivery of exemplary customer service. However, as these platforms become less differentiating, there are some leading healthcare organizations that are making a go of service delivery as a powerful brand message or complement to an existing strategy. Laura Harner, Director of Guest Services for Lehigh Valley Health Network in Allentown, Pennsylvania, describes it this way.  “Instead of the term customer service, we refer to it as ‘compassionate’ service. This is most successful when it is ‘hard-wired’ into the operations of a healthcare organization.  For example, valet parking is no longer about the safe and efficient retrieval of cars; it’s about decreasing patient and visitor anxiety over autos usados problems.” Harner adds, “If a patient has made the choice to come...
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