The ideal practice enjoys a steady flow of new patients. It’s a vital step in achieving steady practice growth. But, unfortunately, that’s where we often find a painful gap in the practice or hospital marketing plan. The time, effort and external budget—the source of new business and new patients—somehow disconnects from the internal marketing effort.
By the time a professional practice comes to us for a “marketing deficiency diagnosis” we discover they have neglected their existing patient base. Maybe here’s a taken-for-granted undercurrent. Or perhaps it’s an unintended consequence of a hectic office. Nevertheless, they lose current patients and other payback benefits of an effective internal plan.
If this sounds familiar, here’s how to leverage some of the critical touchpoints that work to maintain and improve relationships. Begin by sharing these ideas inside your office. Everyone has a role in internal marketing.
Recognize “touchpoint”—an important business term—as any point of contact between a buyer (a patient or prospective patient) and a seller (a provider, office and any staff member). Proper training helps everyone to identify all touchpoints and to recognize their value with new or existing patients.
- People don’t really care about other patients. Their only concern is about one patient — themselves. Intellectually, a person is aware, and sensitive to the idea, that they are not the only “customer.” But on some emotional level, each patient still believes that their personal issues and concerns are the highest priority. Right or wrong, everyone expects to be treated as if they are your one and only customer.
- More than ever, today’s patients are willing and able to change providers. Long before they appeared in your office, the typical patient has researched their options and alternatives. What’s more, they have a financial stake in the game, and want the value and benefits that they anticipate.
- The telephone touchpoint deals with two kinds of inbound calls. The first is calls from existing or directly referred patients who know about your practice. They expect to be treated as a friend and are prepared to make an appointment. The second type of caller—folks responding to advertising—is more challenging. The primary objective with this caller is to reassure them that you have the answer to their needs and that they should make and keep an appointment. Train to distinguish between these types of calls and know how to handle them properly. It can make or break the relationship from “hello.”
- Patient access is a critical test of service. The Internet is conditioning everyone to expect immediate answers, local service point, convenient access, and…oh yeah…a same-day appointment. Some things aren’t a reasonable expectation, but convenience has become the new currency. Service studies recommend appointments within three days or less. Making patient access a priority can be a strong point of competitive differentiation.
- Both you and the patient will be pleased that you asked for referrals. Providers and professional people are often timid about asking patients for referrals. Excellence in health care service and outcomes are vital standards. But, simply being a good physician does not inspire spontaneous referrals. Patients provide referrals primarily because they have been asked. Simply, satisfied patients appreciate your service and they want to return the favor with a recommendation to a friend or family, or posted online. It’s also an opportunity for the doctor to help others. Satisfaction fuels referrals, but you’ve got to ask.
Successful practices recognize the considerable benefits of internal marketing and maintaining your existing patient base. But internal marketing requires a specific plan, staff training and a systematic approach. We can help with that.
As a starting point, take a moment to share these ideas with everyone in the office. Then give us a call at 800-656-0907. Let’s talk about touchpoints that enhance patient satisfaction.
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