Forbes magazine declared 2016 The Year of the Customer, noting that consumers are smarter than ever, have information at their fingertips, expect to be appreciated and share their experiences (good or bad) with the world. Many sources have additionally proclaimed that customer service will separate the winners from the losers – that experience is overtaking product and price as the key differentiator and motivator for brand loyalty.

To healthcare marketers, the customer experience is familiar ground. This is a trend that health systems have been paying attention to for years – and are now being financially motivated and rewarded to ensure satisfaction scores remain high.

What can healthcare marketers do to impact customer experience?

In conferences and strategic planning sessions, this question routinely rises. The first thing that you can impact is expectations. Customers draw their expectations of a health system based on what we tell them with marketing, advertising and word-of-mouth. We can impact what customers expect from our brand by:

  • Developing a brand position that truly differentiates in your market and accurately reflects the culture of the organization.
  • Formulating a brand promise that is meaningful, resonates and is deliverable.
  • Inspiring our internal audiences (who interact with our customers every day) to deliver on and live this promise.
  • Establishing a social media strategy and filter for “on-brand” shared content.

7 additional ideas that you can implement now to impact the customer experience

1.)  Dig deeper on differentiators and develop those into what Jay Baer (customer service expert and author) calls “Talk Triggers.” These are messages that you use consistently and faithfully to differentiate your organization to elicit and reinforce positive experiences. Fill in the blanks for your organization: When a customer thinks of ______, they immediately think _________.

2.)  Stop beating our chest about that new piece of technology or award – the region’s only blah, blah, blah – and start talking about what’s in it for the customer. All communications, content and advertising around that new toy should be put through a customer benefit filter – because branding is about heartbeat, not chest beat.

3.)  Bring value to your communications. Customers know when they’re being sold to, so focus on being the provider of information that helps them make important decisions about their health and well being.

4.)  Make information easy to understand and deliver it in ways that customers want to consume it. We can increase “dwell time” on our web site by providing videos, visuals, interactive assessments and calculators – all of this helps build trust.

5.)  Build loyalty by embracing “haters” online. Over 1/3 of online customer complaints on social media are never answered. Posters don’t expect a response (some really just want an audience), so exceed their expectations by engaging them. Most of you are acknowledging the online complainer with a standard public reply, but a tip from the retail world is to follow up with a private message, through Facebook Messenger for example, that compliments their insight and seeks further feedback.

6.)  Close the gap between marketing and customer service. Marketers are pretty smart sometimes, but we can’t impact what we don’t hear. Establish a direct link so you hear what customers are saying ASAP.

7.)  Step back. Sometimes we’re just too close to a problem and we can benefit from a fresh set of eyes – ideally a set that’s seen these things before. Maybe it’s time to audit your messaging, advertising and time to listen to the market’s desires and perceptions of your brand?

Customer service is on health system’s radar. From concierge type welcome desks to forming partnerships with a ride-share companies to get patients to their appointments, new ideas are being implemented every day.

What initiatives have you implemented that are showing dividends and improving customer experience?


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