Leading Customers: More than Mere Marketing

Lesson 1: Topic 16 of 19

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The marketplace is always in flux, money is always tight, and there will always be entities competing with you for customers. The customers you already have (established patients, residents living in your facility, etc.) may not be the best, and you may be stuck with them. The new ones you are able to bring in may be just as bad or worse. What to do? 

You lead them to where they need to be. That may sound odd, since healthcare is a service industry and therefore we are here to serve the public. To which we reply, yes, but there is such a thing as servant leadership (more on that later). 

It’s not manipulative to shape the public’s expectations – in fact, it’s both wise and prudent.

Remember the earlier example of Whole Foods? Is their experience applicable to the healthcare industry? You bet it is. Whether due to greed, mismanagement, or a combination of both and/or other issues, all of their problems can be summarized this way: they violated the maxim “underpromise and overdeliver.” The retailer actually did the opposite, promising to satisfy and delight while actually delivering poorly through overcharging and angering their customer base.

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You may not be the CEO; you may not be in the Sales & Marketing department. Maybe you’re a “just” a Social Worker, Physical Therapist, Licensed Counselor, or some other hands-on healthcare professional; even so, you still need to think about how to shape and satisfy the needs of the paying customers who come to you for help, plus think how to attract new customers. 

Our author Keith has been the Administrator of high-end, luxury CCRCs, and also small, rural Medicaid facilities. He thought (naively, it turns out) that the residents and their family members at the former would be more demanding and have higher expectations than the latter. But people are hard to predict. Yes, there are indeed wealthy people who are haughty and arrogant, accustomed to getting what they want when they want it; there are also gracious ones who are thankful for what they receive. And there are low-income nursing home residents who can be equally prideful and arrogant, as well as ones who are kind, gracious, and grateful. 

As you no doubt know, Medicaid tends to reimburse less than what care actually costs, so a facility with too many Medicaid residents is difficult to run well. We mention this because we have interacted with people paying literally nothing at all who insist on getting one-on-one nursing care, and some who throw cigarette butts and other trash everywhere and justify it by saying, “I’m paying for the janitor to pick it up,” and who complain about the limited menu and lack of amenities. The demands of entitled people are impossible to meet, and their attitudes are annoying or worse. Perhaps you could tell similar stories.