Column by my Wizard of Ads partner Michele Miller from Inc.com
“I’ve done everything possible to create good relationships with my clients,” a physician announced with just a hint of smugness during one of my recent seminars. “I’ve decorated my office with marble pillars and resort-style furniture. I’ve painted the rooms soothing colors and have a Japanese fountain in the waiting room to calm the nerves. There is a variety of magazines on the coffee table that appeal to different personalities. I even have a cappuccino corner where patients can make themselves a beverage. I’ve covered all the bases. You can’t possibly add anything -- there’s nothing left.”
I let his statement hang like Air Jordan for a few ticks of the clock, then arched an eyebrow and asked, “How long do your patients have to sit in the waiting room before they’re escorted in to see you?”
It was like hitting him with a two-by-four....
One of the most important aspects of the patient experience, yet he was so close to it, he couldn’t see it. Rather than put time into interior decorating or refreshments, think how much more effective it would have been to focus on eliminating the biggest complaint most patients have these days -- interminable waits in small rooms with no windows and no explanation.
When you approach marketing your business -- whether you’re in medicine or manufacturing -- it’s important to hop off the creative bandwagon from time to time and instead start thinking from a perspective based in logic.
Everything is marketing.
Every touch point the customer has with your business contains an element of marketing. It can be your advertising, the location of your store, or the way your staff answers the phone. It can be the usability of your website, the cleanliness of your restrooms, or the lighting in your parking lot. And yes, it definitely is how long your customers (or patients, or clients) are forced to wait before being served.
Your customer is affected by each and every interaction with you, whether it is physical, emotional, or virtual. It’s up to you to make sure those experiences are positive on a consistent basis.
Use that bad rap to your advantage.
Nearly every business category or industry suffers from some kind of stigma. What is the biggest complaint about your competitors? Find it, then fix it. There’s a reason for all those lawyer jokes -- wouldn’t it be refreshing to find an attorney who gives it to you straight, treats you with respect, and doesn’t have, as comedian Craig Ferguson puts it, “a taxi meter attached to his head”?
Many complaints stem from poor customer service. Do you actually expect customers to tolerate being put on hold for 30 minutes or more? You’re either in need of more staff, better training, or a bit of both. An investment in a first-class customer service program may be costly up front, but will pay dividends in years to come.
Make sure you prioritize the needs of your customer.
Sometimes, boasting about what you do for consumers is meaningless if you’re not focused on what the customer really wants or needs. It’s like football legend Jerry Rice doing a victory dance in the end zone without actually making a touchdown. A consumer-electronics chain might be testing a female-oriented concept store -- the décor is soothing and the background music creates a nice ambience. But what if there are 25 very unhappy customers standing in line with only two flustered clerks at checkout? Sorry fellas -- respecting the consumer’s highly valuable time beats nice paint and smooth jazz any day.
You don’t have to be a mind reader to figure out what is best for the consumer. Your loyal customers are there for a reason and it isn’t just to give you their hard-earned money. They like doing business with you, and they’ll like you even more if you ask their opinion. No business is perfect; there’s always room for improvement. Women make particularly excellent sources of information and opinion. With a highly connected brain-wiring configuration, women have a heightened sensory awareness and notice the finest of details. Their suggestion of a subtle change in the way you do business can mean the difference between ordinary profit and miraculous growth.
Whether it’s redecorating your office or launching a new advertising campaign, next time take a long, hard look at every touch point of your business before you start anything new. Talk to your most loyal customers and get their input. Prioritize what needs to be accomplished according to your customer’s needs, not yours. Then, do everything possible to deliver what you’ve promised. It’s powerful marketing -- and when it comes to ROI, it beats a cappuccino bar every time.