Ideas In Action: New Meanings for Old Sayings

July 2007

It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it

Getting back to basics

 

In my marketing work with medical device companies and their customers, I’m finding that some of those old sayings that have been around forever have new meaning that’s applicable in the world of elective medicine.

 

It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it

Parents learn quickly that with kids, it’s important to teach about tone and manner in conversation. These little lessons seem to have a big impact, not only on the playground but throughout life. Similarly, communication experts tell us that 90% or more of what gets communicated between people is non-verbal.

A similar principal applies to the workplace, where your workday can typically be separated into two components, the content (what you do) and the process (how you get it done). In the world of refractive surgery, there’s been a lot of focus placed on content and little emphasis put on process. Surgeons invest heavily in equipment and skill to provide surgical procedures such as LASIK. This is the content piece that comprises “what” gets done, and the outcomes are spectacular.

However, equal emphasis on the process or “how” seems to be lacking in many practices.

And that is precisely where the real opportunity exists to improve the experience of your customers. The processes you put into place should all be designed to lead your customers to the conclusion that their experience was remarkable and memorable.

During this year, my monthly column in Cataract and Refractive Surgery Today (www.crstoday.com), has focused on how to improve quality in the refractive practice, often referencing the work of the International Council for Quality Care. This organization is devoted to helping physicians work on the process side of the ledger and have an abundance of tools and resources available. I strongly recommend their two-day Physician Strategy College for anyone who wants to live out their “perfect day” at work on a regular basis. The ICQC can be of big help: (www.icqc.org).

 

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it

You’ve heard it a million times: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” With sincere apologies to my 8th grade grammar teacher Mrs. Foulkes, I offer an updated corollary that applies today: It’s broke. And it’s definitely time to fix it.

The “it” I’m referring to are the systems in place to effectively capture and cultivate the interest initially expressed by people seeking your services. A decade of market data in refractive surgery has proven that doctors aren’t doing well when it comes to creating an experience that is over- the-top remarkable for their paying customer patients. Most surgeons I talk to believe they’re doing a reasonable job in this area, but they fail to recognize just how high the bar is when someone is asked to pay $5,000 or $10,000 to have their vision improved.

Our firm has done telephone assessment studies to assess how well surgeons’ staff members are answering calls from prospective customers for refractive surgery. The bottom line: the processes used to answer the phone are inadequate and are largely broken. Leaving this unfixed has consequences, one of which can be seen in the charts comparing the price and demand for LASIK with that for breast implants over the past decade. It’s clear that plastic surgeons are doing a better job of creating and protecting the value of their main offering.

 

Getting back to basics

The lack of sophistication by medical providers on the telephone is not what consumers considering multi-thousand dollar purchases should be receiving. Unfortunately, the problem extends beyond the phone and into the very practices themselves. It’s not that staff don’t try to be nice or helpful; it’s just that systems are typically not in place to make certain that every encounter with every customer is truly nice and helpful. Doctors often relegate these issues to the list of “little things” that can be worked on later. However, it is the little things that can often make a big difference, especially when you are a provider of a premium-priced service that is dependent on the discretionary-income of your target audience.

My recommendation is to go back and examine those routines which have become “automatic” and see what can be tweaked and improved to create greater connection with your current or future customer. The Ritz Carlton calls these their service “basics”, a set of 21 principles that guide an environment described as “ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.” I hope that’s motivation enough for you to get back to basic.

 

Shareef Mahdavi
President, SM2 Consulting

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Bon Appétit

Bon AppétitWhat surgeons can learn from the dining experience.

When Danny Meyer enters a restaurant, he knows in a matter of seconds whether the experience is going to be exceptional or not by observing two things: is the staff focused on their work, and are they having fun with each other? Meyer knows what he’s looking for. He is the founder and co-owner of eleven establishments in New York City, including the top Zagat-rated Union Square Cafe and Gramercy Tavern…

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Ideas In Action: Pianos, Ice Cream and You

April 2007

Pianos, Ice Cream and You

The big “E”

The Fine Print

 

You might not have put this together, but Steinway (the legendary piano maker) and Cold Stone (the fast growing ice cream chain) have a lot more in common than many realize. Both have some unique approaches to satisfying customers and building their business brands. Both have built their reputations without advertising (one over the past 150 years, the during the past 5).

 

Pianos, Ice Cream and You

When you buy a Steinway, one of the benefits is that the company arranges a concert by a pianist in your home. You pick the date, give them the guest list, and they take care of the rest. You enjoy a neat experience and get to impress your guests. And you know who ends up becoming a future Steinway customer? The guests! Now, that’s clever marketing!

When you go to Cold Stone, an ice cream cone easily runs five bucks or more. Flavor sampling is encouraged, and you get to customize your order with goodies that get mixed in before your eyes on a cold slab of granite. The teenage scoopers sing for tips. It’s a brief performance dubbed “eatertainment” that has people standing in long lines on hot nights. Again, very clever marketing.

What these two examples have in common is something we should all pay attention to, namely the customer experience. Whether we’re dealing in high-end pianos or passion fruit sorbet, the path to differentiating our offering and commanding premium prices is through the delivery of over-the-top experiences to our customers.

 

The big “E”

Welcome to debut of Ideas in Action, a newsletter designed to stimulate your thinking and help you continuously improve the experience you offer your customers. The inspiration for doing this comes from 20 years of marketing and sales experience with medical technology, specifically ones that are so good that customers (meaning the doctor’s patients) are willing to pay for them with their own money rather than wait for somebody else (meaning insurance) to pick up the tab.

My firm, SM2 Consulting, works with leading manufacturers and providers in ophthalmic, dental, and cosmetic/aesthetic specialties. During the past 5 years, we have published numerous articles and reports (available in the Library of our just-launched website), most of which apply across the board to the effort involved the business and marketing of elective procedures. What I’ve learned while doing the research and writing is that when it comes to the marketing of services, the ultimate form of marketing occurs when the service you deliver exceeds the expectations in such a way that your customer feels compelled to tell everyone they know about it and continue doing so for a long time. We have passed by the era in marketing when you could create the right “mix” of traditional concepts – positioning, promotion, pricing, packaging, and all the other “P”s – in order to be successful.Those “P”s are still around, but they are taking a back seat to the big “E” of marketing called experience.

My goal is to discover and highlight for you great role models of products, services and companies that know how to deliver an enhanced customer experience.

We’ve got some good things planned going forward, so stay tuned. I’ll be discussing pricing (you won’t believe how much a buttocks lift actually costs!), a whole new approach to the sales of cell phones, and an interview with The Experience Economy author Jim Gilmore. In the meantime, I have finally published the long- awaited Top Ten Marketing Mistakes made by refractive surgeons, which is now available for you to download at the SM2 website. It should be a good conversation starter at your next staff meeting. For those of you who got this “magically”, I was the magician who added you from my rolodex. I hope you will let your friends and colleagues know about the newsletter and the site.

Summer starts today. That means swimming, BBQ, and, of course, Cold Stone. Enjoy!

 

The Fine Print

I call this a “newsletter” but it’s really more of a “fire starter,” intended to spark thoughts and ideas for readers to more creatively solve their own marketing challenges. It is intended to be more raw and “straight from the gut” (thank you Jack Welch) than what happens in my monthly column in CRSToday. I’ll do my best to issue this newsletter when I have something to say which I think adds value to your efforts to improve the level of customer experience in your practice or business.

We won’t sell or rent your e-mail address or name. If you are bored and don’t want to receive this, you check out at anytime. I hope the opposite happens and that this is good enough stuff that you will forward to your friends and colleagues so they can join in. Feedback is good! If you want to comment on something here, send a note to me at the address below.

 

Shareef Mahdavi
President, SM2 Consulting

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Beyond Quality and Toward Experience

Beyond Quality and Toward ExperienceOnly the serious need apply.

What composes your typical day? For most of you, a workday starts with treating patients but quickly gets consumed by signatures, phone calls, e-mail, postal mail, chart reviews, managerial issues, and a detail rep who wants a few minutes of your time. With facilities issues, instruments breaking down, computer glitches, phone calls from referring doctors, billing discrepancies, delayed Medicare payments—the litany of intrusions on the doctor-patient interaction seems endless…

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Structure in the Medical Practice

Structure in the Medical PracticeDoes your practice run more like an ice hockey game or a ballet?

Identify this scene: a team of people moving fast with lots of intensity, bumping into one another, creating chaos and confusion. Does this sound like a night at the ice hockey arena? Instead, I am referring to some medical practices, especially those with multiple physicians and support staff. Chaotic practices lack an effective support structure. Vital information such as phone messages, charts, and test results is not tracked carefully and sometimes gets misplaced…

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