Three Wise Dames

Marketing in the Life Science Industry

Yes, Doctor, This IS a Business April 27, 2010

“Thank you for calling. Our office hours are Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.  We’re closed from noon to 2 p.m. for lunch. If you have reached this recording during normal business hours, please leave a message. We will get back to you by the next business day.”

That’s the message I keep getting when I try to schedule an appointment with one particular physician.  And I have left several messages with no response.

Under normal circumstances, I would have zero tolerance for this total lack of responsiveness and would simply have called another doctor. But in this case, I have already seen the physician for a particular injury, went through the trouble of getting an MRI and would really like to get the results.

Where’s the Disconnect?

Given the practice’s troubling habit of not responding, I should not have been surprised when I called again this morning only to learn that the phone number had been disconnected.

When will physicians really grasp that they are in business and that to stay in business, they need to start treating patients as their customers?  Ok, I understand that doctors went to medical school, not business school.  Still, somewhere in between anatomy and pharmaceuticals 101, were they not taught that private practice requires more than office space and a listing in the phone book?

Running a successful physician’s practice takes the skills and talents of multiple staff members, from the front desk person who answer the phones to the physicians and nurses who provide the clinical expertise.  The one thing each of these people has in common is their interaction with customers—the practice’s patients.

Basic Customer Service

There is much a physician can learn from studying the successful marketing and customer service standards of other businesses:

  • Return phone calls and emails promptly, and always within 24 hours
  • Provide continual staff training on customer service excellence and how to handle difficult customers in a professional and effective way
  • Provide multiple ways for customers to contact you including phone, email and website

These are a few of the simple fundamentals that physician practices must take seriously, especially in today’s tough economic climate where consumers are judicious in how they spend their money. Mastering the basics is also a prerequisite before a practice can effectively implement a marketing or public relations campaign.

For more information on practice marketing, refer to Lisa’s most recent post and Debbie’s post on ‘Practice Marketing is Not Rocket Science’.

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Make Some Noise! April 26, 2010

Are your customers marketing to their customers?

Every contact or interaction customers have with companies or providers of goods and services, are viewed through our marketing lens. The four ‘P’s’ of marketing shape our perceptions. Attention getting [promotion] efforts must be followed with relevance [product], value [price] and accessibility [place] marketing efforts.

Perception versus Reality

Promotional efforts that are consistent and impactful convey the message that a higher caliber of good or service is available.  Inconsistent, bland and lack of promotion conveys a message that the good or service is not available or of poor quality.  The caliber of a good or service is held in the eye of the beholder, not in the intentions of the provider.

As patients we use the same marketing lens to evaluate our healthcare providers.  Each individual within a practice serves as an ambassador, marketing the care a patient can expect to receive.  All interactions a patient has with the practice staff will influence their perspective on the physician’s business, much the same way the physician is influenced through interactions with product suppliers.

Implementing good practice marketing processes will go a long way towards raising the perceived caliber of the practice and patient care.  A review on practice marketing considerations can be found in Debbie’s post ‘Practice Marketing is Not Rocket Science’.

However, practice marketing processes can only be appreciated by the patient once we go to the practice.  First the patient must know to go.

Which brings us to the question – are your customers marketing to their customers?

Intentional effort must be focused on getting the word out that the practice is interested and ready to serve specific patients.  A bare minimum of key messages to communicate include:

  • ‘We are here and ready to serve’
  • ‘We offer the services that meet your needs’
  • ‘We stay current in specialty training’
  • ‘We are uniquely able to serve patients in our specialty’

These are likely messages that are conveyed to patients in the absence of marketing the practice:

  • ‘We are not interested in new patients’
  • ‘We do not offer new services’
  • ‘We are not current in new techniques’
  • ‘We are indistinguishable from all other practices’

Gracious and respectful interactions, good follow through and high caliber patient care constitute powerful marketing.  Patients will reward physicians for this service through provider loyalty, positive reviews and recommendations, and new patient referrals.  But first, the patient must be inclined to seek the physician, and that requires making some noise.

For another perspective on the same subject read Stewart Gandolph’s post found here:http://bit.ly/d0OxNw

Next up – what role can industry play in physician practice marketing?

(c) 2010 pH Consulting

 

 
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