Mind the Gap: Build Your Practice by Bridging the ‘Experience Void’

mind the gap, healthcare marketing, patients, reputation management

Think you know your patients? According to a new report from IBM and eConsultancy, you may want to think again. Surveying both consumers and marketers, the report found that there is a significant “experience void” between brands and their customers. In a nutshell, most companies believe they provide excellent customer experiences; most consumers believe they don’t, and the difference in perception is eroding trust and long-term loyalty.

The numbers tell the tale:

  • 47% of brands say they have a “strong capacity” for providing relevant communications to consumers but just 35% of consumers say communications from their favorite brands are usually relevant.
  • 81% of companies say they have or are close to having a holistic view of their customers (i.e., across interactions and channels) but only 37% of consumers say their favorite companies understand them.
  • 69% of businesses say they offer a superior online experience but 51% of customers who left a company that “failed them” did so because of a bad online experience.

Clearly, companies are overly optimistic in their ability to understand what consumers want and how to go about giving it to them. And while the report didn’t focus on healthcare, it’s safe to say that similar misconceptions can impede doctors’ efforts to reach, attract and retain aesthetic consumers. Here are three areas in which “minding the gap” can lay the foundation for bridging it:

The perception gap: Obviously, patients are looking for skilled practitioners but, for most, board certification and other credentials are only part of the picture. For example, when RealSelf users were asked to describe the ideal aesthetic doctor in five words or less, the top three adjectives they used were “experienced,” “honest” and “caring,” only one of which relates to surgical skills per se.

Doctor Takeaway: While demonstrating expertise in your online interactions is important, incorporating more personal, less technical content demonstrates that you understand aesthetic consumers’ larger, emotional needs and are eager to help resolve them.

The connection gap: When it comes to dealing with potential patients online, many practices believe they do an excellent job while many patients feel the opposite. For example, RealSelf data shows that the vast majority of practices believe they respond to online leads within 24 hours while many patients say they don’t hear back for days, if at all. Considered a form of “optimism bias,” the disconnect can have a disastrous effect on both your business and your reputation.

Doctor Takeaway: Create a comprehensive lead management plan, in which all patient contacts are tracked from initial inquiry and response to subsequent interactions and final resolution. (As a bonus, doing so provides insights into which channels deliver high-quality inquiries which, in turn, will help you determine where to direct your marketing efforts.)

The experience gap: After years of demanding training, it’s only natural that doctors view their interactions through the lens of surgical outcomes. Patients, however, take a much longer view that incorporates determining a need, pursuing it and dealing with the consequences and after-effects. Doctors who fail to take the more holistic view risk missing the bigger picture that determines patients’ overall satisfaction.

Doctor Takeaway: Recognize that patients’ perceptions of their aesthetic experiences extend far beyond the OR. From staff interactions to follow-up care, such non-medical factors not only influence their impression of the care they receive, they also play a significant role in the online reviews they write. Take their input as constructive criticism, make the appropriate changes and it’ll be one less gap you have to mind.

About Rob Lovitt

Rob Lovitt is a longtime writer and editor who believes every good business has a great story to tell. He has written for dozens of magazines and websites, including NBCnews.com, Expedia.com and the inflight magazines of Alaska, Horizon and Frontier airlines.

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