It is the age of information and technology. For health care services, the race is on to grab a share of the market. Hospitals are also sprouting here and there, trying to attract practitioners to invest, and positioning themselves for the booming population. I am quite engrossed with the varying strategies of hospitals and clinics to attract customers, ranging from establishing the expertise of its staff to showcasing its equipment and facilities. However, with scarce resources, it would be difficult to have a good return of investment from traditional marketing. What then could be done to acquire market share without spending too much?
One cost-effective strategy that can be used is word of mouth marketing. With the widespread use of social media sites, positive or negative comments regarding products and services can spread readily. There is the belief that word of mouth can be generated by painstaking interior design of buildings and offices, procurement of cutting-edge technologies, or employing rock-star executives to jumpstart sales. While these could create interest in the short term, sustaining the gains consistently for years is another story. Just think about it: are you inclined to be a rabid fan of a service whose only claim to fame is based on a beautiful office, a brand-new costly machine, or a well-known personality?
One aspect that is often neglected in order to generate good word of mouth is the interpersonal experience of customers with employees. While most firms recognize the value of customer service, they fail to do more than creating systems and process flows to minimize and address customer complaints. Some executives even say that if only they could automate and control their staff, business would soar. This may be good for manufacturing firms, but never for health care services. The sad part is that the culture in most health care firms is passive-aggressive, and this translates to below par satisfaction ratings(1). Is there anything that our leaders from the health care industry can do to reverse this trend?
In order to delight patients on a consistent basis, we must make sure that the health care staff are truly happy and delighted to serve. This positive culture starts from the firm’s leaders. If a leader shows that service is more important than profit and demonstrates it through action, employees will be inspired to follow. It is also important to employ people who are not only competent in their field, but also show high empathy scores. Once the ideal person is identified, all effort must be exerted to keep him or her happy and satisfied. Though this may be easier said than done, the effort is worth it. After all, the competition is fierce. And in the final analysis, a dedicated and service-oriented work force is something that cannot easily be copied or cloned.