Last year, I ordered 64 items from Amazon. That is at an astounding rate of five or more packages every month. Wow. I’m afraid to even guess how much money I spent. But I am far from alone. Check out these stats:
- One out of every four U.S. adults has an Amazon Prime account.
- Nearly half (44 percent) of all retail sales were done through Amazon in 2017.
- Amazon is more valuable than all major brick and mortar retailers COMBINED.
What is the secret to their success? How did they move from being a small online retailer that only sold books in 1999 to the global power they are today? According to co-founder Jeff Bezos, the answer is simple, “If there’s one reason we have done better than of our peers in the Internet space, it is because we have focused like a laser on customer experience, and that really does matter, I think, in any business.”
“In ANY business”…including (if not especially) healthcare. When it comes down to it, successful practices create incredible patient experiences. And while we may never build an empire the way Jeff Bezos did, we can still look to what Amazon has done to find ways to boost our own patient satisfaction levels.
So how does Amazon create an outstanding customer experience? And how can we mirror that mindset with our patients?
1. Put patients first.
“We’re not competitor obsessed, we’re customer obsessed. We start with what the customer needs and we work backwards.” –Jeff Bezos
Starting with what your patient needs and then working backwards is a complete shift for many practices. We often spend too much time thinking about how we can make our practice better, more efficient, more profitable when we should be thinking about how we can make things better for our patients instead. Put yourself into the shoes of one of your patients. That frazzled mom in the corner. The elderly man shifting uncomfortably in his hard chair. The nervous teenager. Find ways that you can make their experience better. Shift your mindset from how your practice can be more successful to how your patients can be more successful and you will see great results.
2. Understand modern patients.
“If you make customers unhappy in the physical world, they might each tell six friends. If you make customers unhappy on the Internet, they can each tell 6,000.” –Jeff Bezos
This is not your father’s practice anymore. Technology has taken over every aspect of our lives and healthcare is not exempt. From your online presence to texting to telehealth, modern patients expect their healthcare practice to be engaged in technology. In addition, the advent of online reviews has made the patient experience one of the most critical aspects of your practice. If a patient does not enjoy their interactions with you, they will surely share that online.
Adopting modern technology is one way you can adapt to patient expectations. When using this technology, remember to always focus on making patients feel important. Technology should be used to enhance the patient experience, not remove them from that personal feel.
3. Acknowledge mistakes
“We will use the scar tissue from this painful mistake to help make better decisions going forward, ones that match our mission.” –Jeff Bezos
Amazon has not had a completely smooth ride. Like any business, there were mistakes made. The difference here was that Amazon acknowledged those mistakes and personally apologized, creating even greater customer loyalty. Likewise, every single practice in the world will mess up from time to time. In the healthcare industry, practices have become so wary of malpractice lawsuits that apologizing has all but disappeared…even when the mistake is not related to a patient’s care. Let’s consider some common situations. A patient calls and leaves a message and you can’t get back to them for several hours. The front desk receptionist is busy and stressed out and ends up being short with a patient. You are running way behind and patients are sitting in the waiting room for over an hour.
Rather than pretending nothing is wrong, simply acknowledge the problem and apologize. Patients are surprisingly forgiving when a sincere apology comes their way. I recently went to the doctor and ended up with an incredibly long wait. Out of the blue, the receptionist came over to me and said, “I am so sorry for this long wait. I’ve got a couple of movie passes for you because of this inconvenience.” I was floored. I was also really impressed. I have shared that experience with multiple people. That practice took a potentially negative experience and turned it into a positive.
Just as Amazon has built a company based on customer service and loyalty, we can do the same with our practices. It is often small things that can make a big difference. Give it a try!
For additional ideas on small things you can do to build patient loyalty, read our new guide, "Discover the Secret Sauce of Patient Satisfaction."