by Lisa Kersey
The more you know, the more you Kohls. Google the phrase and you will find there are Facebook groups devoted to hating the slogan and discussions challenging its effectiveness as a marketing strategy. While turning your brand into a verb is rarely effective, Kohls must be doing something right. Unlike their much maligned slogan, they have a simpler, more gramatically correct tagline – Expect More.
The healthcare industry should consider taking a page out of the Kohl’s playbook. Not because of its tagline, but because of its ability to deliver on the brand.
According to a 2012 Harris Poll regarding customer relationships, Kohl’s edged out its competitors and achieved the highest overall customer relationship score. This score reflects the emotional, behavioral and rational components of consumer decision-making and measures the strength of the consumer bond with a particular brand. The score is designed to recognize both current connection and future intention of customers.
The healthcare equivalent of the Harris Poll would be HCAHPS, and beginning this month, a portion of a hospital’s reimbursement will be tied to these customer experience scores. This month also marks the beginning of reimbursement impact for hospitals with greater-than-expected patient readmission rates.
In fact, the wake of post-reform health care delivery in America is beginning to look a lot like the Kohl’s tagline –patients are expecting more, payors are expecting more, and, the government is expecting more. So, how do hospitals shift from simply marketing their services to delivering on their brand?
Like Kohl’s, hospitals must have a clear value proposition. Kohls offers its customers quality products at reasonable prices, and because their merchandise mix reflects emerging trends, making them more innovative than their competitors. Through a “constant sale” promotional model, they cause customers to feel like they are always getting a good deal, compared to the suggested retail price. This is a direct reflection of how well they know their target market.
Hospitals could benefit from similar focus on innovation and cost-effectiveness. Hospitals should ask themselves – does the community know who you are and what drives your decisions? Do they know what impact you have physically andeconomically? Do they know what makes you different from your competitors? Do they believe that you care about their wellness or just their sickness?
Like Kohl’s, hospitals must deliver on the brand experience. Kohl’s stores are characterized as clean, well-organized, conveniently located and well-lit. They offer extended hours and promise no-hassle returns (a page out of Nordstrom’s playbook). These are intentional demonstrations of the Kohls brand. For healthcare, customer experience has become more than just a buzz word – it impacts reimbursement. So investments to enhance the patient experience should reflect what’s important to your patients and their families –and it’s not rocket science.
Patients expect the hospital to be clean and easy to navigate – through signage, well-placed volunteers and information on the website. Enhancing access to care, both in terms of location and extended hours, is still valued by those seeking routine services. And as for a hassle-free experience, consider focused efforts on some of the first and last impressions people have with your health system, including the scheduling process, physician office staff and the billing office. Auditing these three experiences has the potential to radically improve the patient’s perception of your hospital and strengthen your reputation.
Like Kohl’s, hospitals must attract and retain their base. Yes, Kohl’s can use sales and reward incentives to attract customers, but hope is not lost for hospitals. While it’s true that people don’t want to buy “sick care,” millions of dollars are spent every year—out of pocket – on health and wellness. If you are not already looking for ways to capitalize on this, start now!
Health professionals are already trusted sources for most consumers. But while many health systems wrestle their way out of the old “sick model” of healthcare, insurance companies and new private sector businesses are taking advantage of consumer demand for health and wellness. Hospitals need to connect with people and invest in what they are interested in –their health. You can start small by assessing how you are communicating with your community. You can begin the shift by using social media to engage people in discussions about their health. You can create branded apps to help people monitor their health. You can sponsor events and competitions that inspire people to health. And, you can eventually shift your business model from being a provider of sick care to offering services and products that keep people well.
If hospitals embrace these three brand principles, like Kohl’s, they will be recognized leaders in their industry, with a loyal patient base, and financial stablility that will allow them to weather the economic tides.