Why Burdening Your Patients Is a Bad Marketing Decision
Thursday, May 27, 2010
By Pattie Baker
Have you noticed this trend? You make a doctor’s appointment and then a day or two before you are scheduled, you get a message telling you to call the office to confirm your appointment. I know that this is an attempt to reduce no-shows. I like getting the reminder phone call, but I resent having the onus put on me to then call back to confirm, especially since almost every doctor’s office phone system nowadays includes the necessity of spending at least five minutes navigating your way through a complex maze. This is not serving the patient. This is serving the doctor. And when you’re not serving the patient (client, customer), I don’t think your procedures make smart marketing sense.
A dentist I know has an alternative approach to this. His office emails the patients prior to their appointments and then provides a way to simply click to confirm. Yes, it still puts the onus on the patient, but it is so fast and easy to do that it doesn’t register as the same burdensome additional to-do list item as the return phone call does.
A better way? Establishing a policy that makes it clear that patients will be charged for missed appointments unless canceled at least 24 hours in advance. The call serves as a reminder, yet the patient has no obligation to then confirm. This is my preferred solution.
Let’s think about the “onus” situation a bit broader, for other industries. What do you require from your customers in order to return an item to your store, or request repairs or replacements following work you did in their homes? How far in advance of their appointments do you request them to be in your office, and then how long do you make them wait? How many hours do you expect them to block out of their day for your deliveries? Nothing’s worse than the appliance delivery that requires you to be home for four hours, and won’t tell you which four hours until after 8 pm the night before!
I believe the question for business owners is, “How best can I serve my customers?” The second question, then, is “How can I then make that customer-focused service also work for my business operations?” When you’ve answered these two questions and put a plan in place that delivers on the promise of both, then you are ready to market your commitment to both customer focus and operational efficiency. Chances are, if you’ve made it work for both your customers and your business, you’ve done something innovative as well. And guess what? That’s a marketing advantage.
Here is an eye doctor’s office that gives the patient the option of choosing how best to confirm an appointment with him or her. I like this.