It seems that in every healthcare organisation I attend at the moment, that business development, sales or customer retention is being discussed. I’m actually finding too that there is increased focus on patients and clients been seen as ‘customers.’ Or at least thought is being given to what the ‘patient or customer experience’ is or could be. In my opinion this is a good thing and I think it can only enhance healthcare outcomes.
Talking with practice managers, it seems to me that more and more their jobs are involving some form of business development. Whether that’s just looking at their marketing materials, mapping the patient experience, actively building networks, or creating new services, there seems to be more focus on getting new patients through the door, and keeping the ones that are already there.
Consumers are choosy, educated and mobile.
Now-days consumers are more educated, and more choosy. Whether buying a TV or visiting a doctors clinic, a dentist’s surgery, a vet clinic, consumers are looking for excellence in service; looking to have a positive experience, and in many cases wanting to feel like a valued customer. And let’s face it, they have more choice and are educated about those choices. People generally don’t mind spending 30 minutes extra to get to a clinic where they have a good experience, as opposed to tolerating a poor experience closer to home.
We consumers are choosy, educated and mobile. And we often have loud voices. We share the good, the bad and the ugly online. With anyone who cares to listen (or read, as the case may be).
So if you thought that business development wasn’t important in healthcare, perhaps it’s time to rethink?
Strategies for healthcare business development we will explore here include:
- Make every interaction count
- Know and share your purpose and vision
- Do more to delight
- Listen to your consumers
- Build your networks
The first of these is probably the most important.
1. Make every interaction count
It’s a seemingly harsh, yet true fact of life that every time you interact with someone, you are being judged. Humans judge other humans, although not always consciously. Every brain is scanning the environment for anything that will hurt or harm, and if you are in that environment, then it is summing you up. Quickly. And deciding if you are a help, a hindrance or harmful.
So every interaction you have with another human being is a chance to impress, influence and connect. Or a chance to disappoint, damage and alienate.
We are not perfect. And not everyone will like us.
Saying that, we have a choice. Your team members have a choice. And that is how you treat other people.
Your interactions with patients, clients and others who walk through your business are probably the best advertisements you can have. Even outside of the business – every time you or your team mention where you work, you have a chance to influence.
So to maintain and grow the business, we need to make every interaction count. And be as positive as possible. Choose your attitude and get started.
To do this well, of course there are a number of things you can do to help. These include (yet are not limited to):
- Map your consumers’ journey through your business. What works and what doesn’t? Improve processes and systems for the best possible experience.
- Train your staff in customer service – all staff.
- Set expectations for what a good experience looks like and monitor. Give feedback when it’s done well and feedback when it’s not.
- Encourage a culture of collaboration – people notice when your staff don’t work well together.
2.Know and share your purpose and vision
Now, purpose and vision is not everyone’s favourite thing. Yet they are important elements for you, your team and your consumers and contacts to know. That’s because it gives guidance and a shared connection.
Purpose is why you exist, what contribution you make and what that impact is.
Vision is the future you are working toward – what success looks like. It ties nicely with purpose, yet is not the same thing.
- As a business, define what your purpose is and what you are striving to achieve or improve.
- Involve your team, make sure they understand and support the direction the business is taking.
- Help the team see their role in the purpose and vision and be proud.
- Use your purpose and vision in communications with your patients or clients, with you community.
3.Do more to delight
What businesses are you are loyal to? What do they do to deserve that loyalty? What sets them apart from their competitors?
- What could set your business apart?
- Where do you go above and beyond?
- How could you do more?
- What would delight your clients/customers/patients?
People are loyal to businesses that delight them and make them feel valued. It doesn’t have to costs a lot, take up much time, or require too much effort. Sometimes it’s the simplest things that create a pleasant experience, make a difficult time easier or a happy time happier.
Know your customers, know their needs and go above and beyond. Help your team to understand how to do this, recruit people who can and praise those who do.
4.Listen to your consumers
To ensure that you can maintain and gain patients/clients/consumers, you need to ask them what’s important and listen to them when they give feedback – whether positive, or a complaint. It doesn’t mean that they will have all of the answers, yet they might present you with great information to act on.
- Offer the opportunity for them to give feedback.
- When they complain, listen carefully and respond appropriately.
- Train your staff to handle complaints well – it could make a huge difference to your business. Even when people complain, it doesn’t mean that they will abandon your business; if you handle it well, you might just create more loyalty. If you handle it poorly, you will likely lose them, and they will spread the word faster than you could imagine!
So listen, make time to care about what they say.
Do you have a suggestion box, a customer service champion, a complaints process? Does your team have the skills to listen well, even on a busy day?
5.Build your networks
A really important aspect to business development is building networks to help you know who the right professionals are to hire – for marketing, promotions and other business advertising activities. Networks also help you look for opportunities to partner with other businesses for mutually beneficial outcomes.
- Is there a business in your community that you could benefit from working with?
- Do the influencers in your community know who you are?
- Are there organisations in the same business as you that might be interested in sharing ideas?
- Where does it make sense to seek help, advice and grow your networks?
I know that it can be hard to find the time to network, and for some people it’s the last thing you’d like to do, yet it is important.
Find a way that it works for you – anything from a business network in your town to a global online network like LinkedIn or Facebook.
P.S. Don’t forget the obvious
Of course, there are the obvious business development ideas that include advertising, online presence, events, promotions. I didn’t want to cover the obvious in detail as the not-so-obvious may need more reflection.
Yet don’t forget these more obvious elements as they are also important. You do need to advertise or promote, and have a strategy around that.
If these promotional activities are not your strength or interest, they can more easily be done by hired professionals – that’s where your networks will help. You don’t need to be an expert, just find the people who are. This will give you time to focus on leading the not-so-obvious strategies.
Remember, business development in healthcare is not as hard as it sounds. It’s really about being focussed on the experience your clients and patients have with your business.
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