While marketing and customer service have long been critical components in the success of any business, few industries have had to overhaul their processes to implement both as quickly—and so publicly—as hospitals and health systems have in the past decade.
Historically, hospitals relied on superior medical technologies to attract better physicians who would, in turn, bring in new patients. A myriad of changes—from insurance overhauls to a societal shift toward superior customer service expectations—has forced hospitals and health systems to drastically change their business models in order to remain competitive, grow revenues and attract new valuable patients.
As noted by USA Today many hospitals are adopting marketing and customer service strategies used for decades by the retail, travel and communications industries and, as a result, attracting higher-paying and loyal customers. Using their patients’ health and financial records—along with detailed information from consumer marketing firms—hospitals are conducting targeted marketing to attract new patients, save lives and grow revenue.
St. Anthony’s Medical Center in St. Louis, for example, uses patient data to personalize mailings with an individual’s name and a picture of someone of similar age or gender. It is more expensive, but the strategy results in better response rates. From October 2010 through July 2011, St. Anthony’s spent $25,000 on a targeted mailing to 40,000 women for mammogram screenings. The letters led 1,000 women to get the test, which generated $530,000 in revenue from screenings, biopsies and other related services
At Lori Carr & Associates we’ve worked with several health systems that are clearly and quantifiably proving marketing ROI with such activities, leading to significant revenue growth and brand recognition. Our areas of focus include preparing health system call centers to effectively handle a marketing campaign’s call to action, identifying cross selling and up-selling opportunities among new and existing patients, and new patient conversions. Also, because a positive customer experience is vital to converting these marketing efforts into long-term growth, we overhaul processes to create a culture of service excellence.
That excellence in customer service has ramifications not only in attracting new patients but, also, starting next year will directly impact insurance payments for clinical care. Medicare will use patient satisfaction scores to determine nearly one-third of the performance-based pay hospitals will receive. Private health insurers are following suit. From delivering Emergency Room wait times to cell phones to minimize inconvenience for patients, to VIP suites to gourmet food and valet parking, hospitals across the country are responding by implementing customer service amenities and strategies.
While marketing efforts may bring a new patient to a hospital, if that patient does not encounter seamless service after their initial encounter, that opportunity is lost. For example, does the patient receive a clear instruction on next steps? When that patient calls for follow up procedures as suggested, is there a clear channel of service, or are they passed around to various departments—ultimately ending in frustration. Is there a defined, customer-friendly process for booking appointments and facilitating payment? Is staff trained properly to cross and up sell services?
The bigger a health system, the more opportunities there are for disconnections among departments. We work with hospitals and health systems to ensure a seamless customer service experience supported by a cultural and organizational shift that puts the customer experience at the center of the entire organization.