July 26, 2016|Categories: More Disruption Please
In an age where Uber is beating out the taxi industry, TaskRabbit ensures you never have to do annoying errands, and Amazon Prime Now delivers anything to your door within the hour, online businesses have to constantly iterate their customer service in order to stay competitive. Zappos recently clocked a record 12-hour customer service call! Consumers are more empowered than ever, and it’s that level of customer service which keeps them from migrating to any of the countless other eCommerce sites for their shoes--at least, for now.
Equally competitive is a company’s online marketing strategy. Between the constantly changing algorithms behind SEO, the move toward content or inbound marketing, and the need to protect their online reputation, brands have to stay on top of the shifting marketing field.
And yet, the healthcare industry remains far behind in both customer service and online marketing. Perhaps because it’s inevitable that people will regularly see the doctor, or because insurance companies ensure providers stay in business, or because doctors don’t have the time and resources to stay on top of providing competitive customer service and online marketing, small practices are lagging behind other verticals.
But what does good customer service look like? I’m talking about making it easy to find a provider online, being able to read reviews in order to ensure the doctor shares your treatment philosophy, easily getting all the necessary procedure and insurance information from their site, and being able to schedule appointments online. Basically, seeing the doctor shouldn’t be an ordeal.
I didn’t realize how much the healthcare industry lagged in terms of creating a positive experience and marketing itself until my wife and I were expecting our first child. I wanted the perfect experience during our prenatal care, and I assumed that as we were paying for these services, we would have a smooth and pleasant one.
I was terribly wrong. Between inconvenient and long waits, the difficulty of scheduling appointments, rushed visits, bills we didn’t expect, and, worst of all, an overlooked test result that could have been disastrous, I couldn’t believe how difficult it was to receive care. The total lack of online information--including online reviews--meant that we didn’t know our doctors’ bedside manner, their treatment philosophy, what others thought of their care, or what insurance they took until we were actually in the examining room.
I was frustrated, and the entrepreneur inside me saw a void in the marketplace. I had just sold an eCommerce platform that I cofounded with my business partner, Travis Schneider, and we were ready for a new challenge.
What would take to bring healthcare into the age of Uber, TaskRabbit, and PrimeNow? Would doctors be open to changing old philosophies that seemed to still work for them?
I realized a huge paradigm shift needed to happen.
Doctors and practice owners need to realize they are running a business and that their patients are, in fact, consumers. Just like any other small business owner, patients are their bread and butter. Those patients can leave at any time for a provider who offers a better experience. And, as they become used to choice and speed in their other company interactions, they’ll gravitate toward practices that provide an elevated level of service.
Providers also need to realize that patients aren’t just looking in the phone book or choosing a random doctor from their insurance listings anymore. Over 40% of potential patients start their search online. That number will only rise as more millennials begin searching for their own doctors. Many doctors still get patients through word of mouth, but the first place potential clients go after a recommendation is Google, business directories like Yelp, and healthcare directories like Vitals.com.
In order to successfully keep patients coming through the door, practices need to rank highly in Google local business results, as well as earn positive online reviews. The Harvard Business Review reports that a one-star increase on Yelp creates a 5-9% increase in revenue for local businesses. This is a huge opportunity that’s being missed by doctors who don’t ask for or syndicate reviews!
The good news for providers is that if they become early adopters of SEO best practices, improved web presence, online marketing, immediate appointment follow-up with a request for a feedback, online appointment scheduling, and online reputation management, they will have a huge competitive edge. In contrast, the waiting rooms of providers without websites--and yes, they exist--or with non SEO-optimized websites or with negative Yelp reviews who don’t respond to them may still be full today. I predict they won’t be for too much longer.
Travis and I founded PatientPop because we’re excited about the shift in healthcare. Our all-in-one practice growth engine at PatientPop aims to capitalize on that shift and ensure that future patients have remarkable experiences. I’m excited watching our clients thrive as they adopt new marketing and service practices, and I dream that our platform will enable that perfect, smooth experience for the expectant couples of the near future.