Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Clinical Innovation - The Starbucks Example, Shaping “The Experience” Of A Medical Practice

Why do some doctor practices attract and keep loyal patients? Why do Starbucks customers in New York City return for coffee an average of 18 times a year?

In Starbucks case, Howard Schultz, founder of Starbucks, it’s the total “experience.” Starbucks a neutral place – neither home nor work – where one can meet friends, listen to music, use your laptop, find a date, conduct business, snack, enjoy various coffee concoctions, and even pick up coffee grounds for free for you roses. Yes, Starbucks is offering coffee grounds for free to feed your roses at home, as part of its “green” image.”

In a 2006 book The Starbuck Experience: 5 Principles for Turning the Ordinary into the Extraordinary, Joseph A. Michelli, PhD , says all of these possibilities flow from 5 principles Schultz uses to inspire and motivate his employees to do their level best to please Starbucks customers and to keep them coming back.

These five principles are:

• Make it your own- experiment on your own in your own way to give your customers a unique experience.

• Everything matters – It’s not only the big things – the layout of your café – but the details that your customers observe and talk about and tell others.

• Surprise and delight – Free coffee grounds for roses or a specially made coffee drink for a special customer are examples.

• Embrace resistance - If a customer resists, overcome that resistance with special attention and warmth.

• Leave your mark – Do something that your customer or the community where you serve remembers.

Why couldn’t these principles be applied to medical practices? My friend< Susan Keane Baker, author of Managing Patient Expectations: The Art of Finding and Keeping Loyal Patients, Jossey-Bass, says similar principles can be used to medical practices.

She says doctors can start by simply asking their staff members to ask three acquaintances these questions:

1. Have you ever visited our practice?

2. If yes, what was your experience like?

3. Have any of your friends ever mentioned our practice?

4. If ye, what did they say about it?

Or you can conduct a focus group asking:

1. Tell me what an ideal visit to a doctor’s office would be like.

2. What three or four words would you use to describe how you felt when your visited your doctors office?

3. How did you feel when you were with your doctor?

4. How did the doctor make you feel about yourself?

5. What does your doctor ‘s practice do that other practices do not?

6. How did you choose your doctor?

7. What to you like about your doctor’’ practice?

8. How could your doctor’s practice’s practice improve service for you?

9. How would you describe your doctor’s practice as a neighbor?

10. What would a doctor do to make you feel that you are well cared for?

Finally, Susan recommends doctors pay rapt attention to the “moments of truth” – those specific encounters where patients form their opinions of your practice and decide whether to return or go elsewhere.

1. Call your practice

2. Making an appointment

3. Receiving directions

4. Meeting the receptionist

5. Waiting in reception

6. Waiting in exam room

7. Meeting the clinician

8. Giving a history

9. Having an examination

10. Having an invasive procedure

11. Giving a lab specimen

12. Receiving discharge instruction

13. Leaving the practice

14. Obtaining lab results

15. Receiving a bill

I’m not suggesting doctors try to become another franchise like Starbucks, with a strategy for opening 10,000 offices worldwide. Doctor services are more complicated and less differentiated. The menu of services is much more diversified. Besides, except for a few isolated franchises – retail clinics, or practices specializing in Lasik, cataract, cosmetic, Botox, weight loss, skin care, fitness, spas, and ER/trauma services – most physician franchises have never caught on.

What I’m saying is: Look at the total experience of your practice through your patients’eyes. See through their lenses how your practice fits into the human condition and into the community as the place to go. This new perspective may pay dividends. It’s the total “experience,” and every detail that goes into that experience, that counts

1 comment:

Dr Akash Rajpal said...

Very insightful. Would like to have more views on the same as keeping all patients "satisfied" does become a challenge. I also would request your views on "When to say NO to a patient". Regards, Dr Akash Rajpal, Sr Administrator, Dr L H Hiranandani Hospital, Mumbai, India.