The healthcare industry has become a competitive retail market where successful organizations make personalized connections to customers and members. Marketing efforts are focused on building, maintaining, and increasing customer loyalty. Healthcare organizations are developing a better understanding of the way in which individual customers want to be served. Products and services reflect the needs and demands of those increasingly sophisticated consumers. (Kutner , 2005)
Consolidation has tightened the marketplace and dramatically increased the need not only to attract, but also to retain, key customers. The time to get involved in relationship marketing is now, before competitors build lasting relationships with your customers.
Relationship marketing works
Relationship marketing is not a lofty theory; it is a practical, sound business practice that makes sense. Results are measurable. Healthcare organizations are using it to:
•Reach segments more effectively. Using segmentation models, a community hospital revamped its advertising program by moving from mass media to targeted marketing efforts directed at specific populations. The hospital also discovered new service opportunities in screenings and programs. The findings meshed perfectly with the hospital's mission, which emphasizes preventive care. (Kutner , 2005)
•Strengthen physician-patient relationships. A tertiary-care children's hospital faced tough competition from pediatric service lines in other hospitals. In response, the hospital used relationship marketing to build a bridge between referring primary-care physicians and its patients. The hospital is also using relationship-marketing services to gather data for determining which pediatric services to offer and where to locate those services.
•Improve customer loyalty. Despite its strong regional standing, one hospital had difficulty attracting patients in its own back yard due to an intensely competitive Metropolitan Statistical Area. The hospital used relationship-marketing techniques to improve service levels and customer loyalty. Because the hospital used relationship-marketing techniques to analyze data from five different information systems, it was able to determine the percentage of loyal patients in its market, an important benchmark for loyalty programs.
•Maximize marketing resources. A tertiary hospital in a competitive metro market area is using relationship marketing to develop strategies that "do more with less" and also provide an accounting of marketing investment. The hospital is using relationship-marketing techniques to reach the right customers with the right message, increase customer base and market share, and track return on investment. (Kutner , 2005)
Analyze the necessary components of a value added service delivery system.
Successful relationship marketing requires thorough preparation before the initiative is launched. An internal examination of organizational strengths and weaknesses, as they relate to relationship marketing, is key. Here are some preliminary questions to ask:
•Is your organization customer-driven? Is the focus on managing internal and external customer relationships? Have you combined all mail lists from all departments within the organization? Do you actively reach out to customers through newsletters, Web sites, or referral networks, and do you pull customer data from these areas? Or do you act only in response to satisfaction surveys and maintain only clinical data on customers?