It’s hard to forget my positive customer service experience with Betty at the local Starbucks last week. It’s where I usually pick up my $4 soy decaf blueberry latte every day at 7:30 am.
“Hi Nitin, great to see you! I see you are running a couple of minutes behind today. I don’t want you to be late for work, so is it going to be the same? I suggest a dash of hazelnut. It just came in today and I think you’ll really like it!”
One thing is clear. Each time I visit Starbucks, I get more than a cup of coffee, I get an experience. I am made to feel special.
The Starbucks business model has changed the coffee industry. Customers are able to customize their beverage with a barista’s hand-crafted assistance. This customization heightens the consumer’s satisfaction level with such simple yet delightful additions as soy milk, various flavors, and sweeteners. Compare this with a system-based, automated approach at McDonald’s, and you’ll see why many consumers (myself included) seldom hesitate paying $4 for a cup of coffee that would cost less than half as much at McDonald’s.
When your patients and referral sources think of your practice, are you the McDonald’s or the Starbucks of physical therapy in your community?
The truth is: What a consumer pays for is not always what the customer wants. A customer who pays $4 or more for a latte is paying for the experience and the human connection, not just the drink. Consumers in the new economy—-a sophisticated, fast-paced world—knowingly will pay more for a genuine “warm fuzzy feeling” human connection.
This human touch adds to the perception of quality. In a service-related profession such as physical therapy, success has a lot to do with perception.
Starbucks founder Howard Schultz has said, “We have built an emotional connection with our customers. We have a competitive advantage over classic brands in that every day we touch and interact with our customers directly. Our product is not sitting on a supermarket shelf like a can of soda. Our people have done a wonderful job of knowing your drink, your name, and your kids’ names”
Similarly, in a physical therapy practice, the patient interacts with the PT several times during the course of treatment. This presents the clinician with several opportunities to provide–a “blue chip” patient experience. The patient could choose to go to a drug store and buy some OTC medication or visit other services including personal trainers and chiropractors. The fact that get the patient’s undivided attention during the course of treatment several times before discharge is a significant opportunity.
Leadership at Starbucks spends a great deal of time, effort, and energy educating partners(staff who work more 20 hours a week) about customer satisfaction. In doing so it builds a brand. Partners receive extensive training in product knowledge, success principles, self development and human interaction skills to improve customer experiences. This contributes significantly to staff and customer retention plus new client acquisition.
That’s why you have a better experience with Betty behind the counter at Starbucks than Joe, who’s looking at the line behind you while taking your order at McDonald’s.
Starbucks has successfully mastered the skill of giving the customer an experience to remember. This has helped the company build its brand and keep its customers coming back.
Can the same strategy work in your practice? Ask yourself:
Is your practice giving your patients those memorable experiences? Are you or your staff connecting with your patients on a human level? Is there a sense of community within your staff? Do you share your knowledge with others (including staff) to generate passion and awareness for your practice? Is the staff engaged and willing to contribute ideas/ suggestions to boost your reputation and efficiency?
The way your team interacts with a 62 year old patient recovering from a fall injury must differ from that of a 17 year old high school athlete with a torn meniscus. This goes beyond clinical intervention. It’s the human interaction that leaves a lasting impression with the patient (customer), long after discharge. It is the experience that will be what they remember most and that’s what will keep them (and their friends) coming back.