Hospital Customers are Assets
(but don’t let that limit your thinking)
Part 1 of 4

By Sharon Bittner, Chief Communications Officer

In this post-reform healthcare environment, customers have both freedom and responsibility when it comes to making service and spend decisions. As a result, hospital success depends on strategies focused on customer acquisition and customer satisfaction that have long been prevalent in other industries. It isn’t a question of when hospitals are going to be forced to get into the customer game. The question is HOW.

Other industries have been operating for decades on the principle that “customers are assets, and they need to be managed like assets.”

This is particularly true in the B2B world, where long-term contractual arrangements tie customers in for a certain period of time — thereby increasing their value as an “asset.”

When I hear companies refer to their customers as assets, I think of warehouses full of forklifts and face-less boxes full of widgets. But customers are people. And that’s what separates them from other assets on the balance sheet. Customers have preferences and choices. Assets don’t.

Are you losing customers because they are choosing your competitor? It happened to one of our clients.

When hospitals truly start to view customers as intangible and invaluable assets, they need to extend their thinking beyond that of other industries.

Instead of thinking about how customers are assets to them, hospitals should be thinking about how they can be assets to customers. Customers are fellow human beings. They have hopes and dreams. Worries and concerns. The emotional bond we cultivate between our customers and ourselves is what we should really see as an asset.

“When the customer comes first, the customer will last” – Robert Half

If hospitals want to increase patient retention — which can be up to 5x more cost-effective than new customer acquisition — they need to earn patients’ confidence and trust over and over again. And the only way to do this is to understand their unique needs, put those needs first, and provide an engaging patient experience that transcends exemplary care. True engagement with patients requires the establishment of a nurturing relationship in between visits. At the beginning of this post, I stated, “It isn’t a question of when hospitals are going to be forced to get into the customer game. The question is HOW.” So, I will leave you with this question:

HOW are you proactively nurturing relationships with your patients, in order to maximize the value of your “customer assets?”

These are my thoughts. Please share yours.

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