By Kathy Roy Gaughran
Senior Marketing Strategist
One of the most important things you can do as a business is to build trust with your clients. A business without trust is like a car without gas. It looks good but doesn’t go anywhere.
The same bridge needs to exist in healthcare; building a trusting relationship between provider and patient. There are three essential pillars of trust that your customers/clients/patients need to know:
- You have their best interests at heart
- You are capable of delivering on your promises
- You are honest and authentic
Keeping the lines of communication open is crucial to success. Let’s say you developed a new product or service, how do you promote it? If you said emails, newsletters, or direct mail then you are on par with most other hospitals, businesses and practices.
However, with advances in technology, there are other, interesting ways to build trust and communicate with your clients. With over 87 percent of Americans using the Internet every day, communicating online is a primary channel. Building quality relationships with your customers online is a good idea and a vital requirement.
Communication is a two-way street…
There was a time when pushing email messages to a mailbox was an effective way to communicate with your audience. There’s more to it today. For one thing, there’s so much noise in the digital space it’s difficult for mass communications to be effective.
Have you looked inside your spam folder recently? You’ll likely discover hundreds of generic, push messages demanding your attention. Unfortunately, unless you are looking for a specific offer, most of these will go unnoticed. Likewise, your clients or patients are looking for–even expecting–an authentic experience. Let’s look at three easy ways to achieve communication, trust and authenticity using technology.
Virtual communication options…
Do people have an easy way to directly contact you or your staff? Many doctors need to make themselves more accessible. The easiest way to keep lines of communication open is through mobile apps, real-time chat, text or timely response to emails.
It’s understandable that you don’t want to be inundated with emails or messages all day and night, but you can set expectations by listing office hours on your website, mobile app and email signature. Studies have shown that approximately 72 percent of US adults prefer to communicate with businesses. Fostering relationships often begins online.
Of course, sharing health information online demands HIPAA compliance. There are best practice standards and secure email providers available to navigate around problems, but the advantages can be huge.
Social media and blog interaction…
I get it, you’re busy and you’re thinking “I don’t have time for that!” And that’s completely understandable. But, by an employee spending a few minutes each day to reach out, answer questions, check in or make announcements, you can grow your patient base. This is especially true when you target millennials.
When someone contacts a business on social media they are, in effect, telling you they’re interested in your brand. Acknowledging their question or comment with a unique and transparent response in a timely manner, shows them you care. That is the first step to building trust. A good rule of thumb for social media interactions is to be authentic, be honest, be timely, and avoid formulaic auto-responses.
Is someone unhappy with your product or service? If something negative appears on your newsfeed, do not ignore it. Hold yourself publically accountable on social media by responding to and, if possible, resolving the issue or complaint.
If your business maintains a blog, do your customers have the ability to comment? They should. Allowing comments on your blog gives your customers and potential customers another chance to be heard. Perhaps they want to know more about your blog topic, or it spurred a different thought or question.
Making commenting available on your blog is an excellent opportunity to reach out and gain a new customer. At the end of the day people want to be heard, let them know you are listening. You’ll reap the rewards of a loyal customer base that extolls the virtues of your business to their friends and colleagues.
With the ability to communicate online comes great responsibility and as such, the importance of review monitoring is on the rise. When someone is looking for a trusted relationship, they often look at review sites. In fact, 92 percent of consumers read online reviews of businesses before making a purchase or selecting a service.
Building trust is crucial for small businesses. That said, the product or service must be good and the business must focus on giving the customer a great experience. If the experience goes awry and a negative review gets posted, first and foremost, own it. Eating crow may not taste good, but it will pay off in spades. It is important to acknowledge the experience in a timely manner. This tells your patient or customer that you care about them and their experience.
On the flip side, if a patient takes the time to write a 5-star review about your business, take a moment and thank them. This small step is a surefire way to gain a loyal customer who will likely recommend you to their friends and family. Responding to both positive and negative reviews can give you an edge over the competition.
People take to these boards when they’ve had a less than stellar experience, so it is crucial to respond authentically and honestly. Providing a unique response tells your customer they have been heard, which is likely what they want. By providing an honest and authentic response, you give the reviewer the satisfaction of being heard. More so, you let everyone else who may be looking for your services know that you care about all of your customers, happy or not.
If a business resolves an issue quickly, approximately 95 percent of unhappy customers will return to that business. Don’t risk losing business because you aren’t monitoring online reviews.
Virtual communication services, social media and review sites are increasing in popularity among patients. These tools provide an easy and effective way to communicate and make your practice or hospital more connected with your customers. This, in turn, helps build positive relationships and loyal customers.
Patients who receive responses on social media are 30 percent more likely to recommend your business to their peers and 44 percent more likely to share their experience online and off. In today’s world, customer loyalty can be fleeting. Special offers or promotions can make even a loyal customer try out a competitor. The key to retaining your loyal customers is staying connected through online communication tools and to respond to questions and comments honestly.
See how Healthcare Success transforms doctor marketing by generating exposure and increasing qualified leads!