What Can A Medical Practice Learn From Big Brands?

If your medical practice’s reality is not in alignment with patients/customers/parents’ expectations, frustrations, disloyalty and poor customer satisfaction are bound to occur.

During my MBA program, we often worked on benchmarking exercises to solve business problems. In class they’d ask us to investigate organizations that faced similar issues that our company was having. The intent was to find solutions (or even mistakes companies have made so we can learn from them) that others have implemented, thus incorporate lessons learned into our own business.

It wasn’t easy to do these exercises because it was difficult to find lessons from McDonald, Starbucks, Home Depot, Apple and other great brands that I could implement at our small pediatric practice. But I had to do these assignments; which made me think harder. One observation I made while studying these big companies was the power of being Consistent with a Story.

Great brands – and even products – tell consistent stories.  What do I mean when I say they tell a story? Well, Prius, for example, tells a story. People that buy a Prius tell others a story about themselves. One may get the same gas mileage from a Honda Civic hybrid; but the Civic doesn’t tell the same story as the Prius. Same with any Apple product. Apple’s story is completely different than Dell’s story.

Consistent with your Story
Consistent with your Story

We can argue all day whether or not Starbucks’ coffee is better than Dunkin’ Donuts. But we can certainly agree each company tells a different story about who they are, and what they represent. Harley Davidson is another great example of a story. People who ride Harley’s are telling others their story; which is in essence what Harley represents as a brand. What do you think about when someone mentions Harley Davidson? Now compare that to what you think about when someone mentions Yamaha or Suzuki.

The thing about these big brands (here is the lesson I learned by the way) is that they are consistent with everything they do. In other words, their story, what they represent, their brand, their advertising, the customer experience is consistent with their story, with what they represent.

If you visit a McDonald’s in Pocatello Idaho, I bet you are going to get a consistent experience than if you visit one in Beijin. As a result, people know what to expect, which in turns creates loyalty to these brands. Godin refers to them as “connections.”

Another example is Apple. Apple sells sexy products. But they don’t stop there. When one visits their retail stores, we get the same look and feel. Their online experience is also consistent with their products and retail stores. It is clean, simple, sophisticated and to the point. 

In your medical practice, are you consistent with your story?

Does your policy say co-payments expected at the time of service but sometimes bill patients instead? Does your voice mail greeting say the call is very important, but don’t always call back within a reasonable time frame? Are the doctors top notch doctors, but the front desk staff (the face of your office) not so great with customer service?  

Does the practice’s website say open until 5:00 pm but if a patient calls at 4:30 pm the lines sometimes are not open? Do you have a sign that says patients have to show their insurance card at every visit, but sometimes the front desk forgets to ask patients for the card?

Are you consistent with your office hours? Or do you have the type of practice that only opens every other Monday from 1:00 to 3:00pm; Tuesdays from 3:00 to 7:00 (but only for sick appointments); Well visits have to be scheduled at the secondary office, which also has different hours than location A. Wednesday you open when there is a full moon, except during the winter months… You get the point.

Brands, companies or products that do not deliver a consistent story don’t do very well. Even big brands make this mistake. Remember New Coke? What about smokeless cigarettes? This notion also applies to a medical practices.

If your medical practice’s reality is not in alignment with patients/customers/parents’ expectations, frustrations, disloyalty and poor customer satisfaction are bound to occur.

But don’t take my word for it. Philippa Kennealy had this to say  in a recent comment:

“Every touch point (point of contact with the practice, be it the website, brochure, receptionist, voice mail, parking attendant, back-office nurse, physician or biller) needs to be examined and evaluated for patient-friendliness. And if found lacking, needs to be trained/designed to meet patient needs.”

In other words, constantly adhering to the same principles, course, form and not self contradictory to your story with everything the practice does.

Does your medical practice deliver a story? Are you consistent with your story?

2 thoughts on “What Can A Medical Practice Learn From Big Brands?”

  1. Great post, Brandon!

    I think one of the reasons that medical practices may fail at telling a story is that their brand is something a marketing person sold them, or was arbitrarily chosen. Some practices do have a story and need to uncover their story to use it. Others do not have a story because they are more a loose collection of physicians banded together for survival, then they are a group that shares a story. I have worked for both types of groups, and it’s wonderful working for a medical group with a story, and having the opportunity to share the telling of that story with them.

    Mary Pat

    1. Mary,

      I agree and quite frankly, I didn’t think about the different situation a practice might find itself in.

      The best stories are those that appear spontaneous and are genuine. Now, that is not to say one can’t craft a great story. But unless there is an interest in creating one and embracing it, your patients/customers are going to create a story for you. A good story that spreads is great. But if patients start spreading bad stories, it is hard to recover from that.

      Thanks for stopping by.

      Brandon

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