Hospital Branding. What works?

Branding in the traditional sense is expected to generate more awareness and thereby more customers having an orientation to buy the product. Applied to a tertiary care heart hospital this could mean telling customers about your great facilities and doctors and asking them to visit you for surgeries. By imputation it would also imply that you want more customers to have heart problems that would lead to more surgeries and business for you!
It is therefore needless to add that traditional communication does not really work when you have to promote a hospital, clinic or nursing home.
Lets see if direct communication principles would work here instead. While running various direct marketing programs for a car company, you could send a mailer telling them about the features of the new car that your company may be launching. If applied directly here it could mean ”Please visit us again for your next heart surgery“ or ”Great limited offer with 25% discount for your next surgery. Act Now“. These offers don’t just sound ridiculous, they could be very hurtful instead. A nursing home recently sent a birthday card to a patient who had expired a month back.
Does this mean that branding a healthcare facility is impossible?
Not at all! Several healthcare facilities have shown us the difference branding can make in developing a successful healthcare business.
Successful branding for a hospital is a function of ”Sensitivity and Empathy“. It is about communicating ”care“ through your staff, facility and collateral.
What do you need to do?
Continue reading “Hospital Branding. What works?”

Franchising a Health Network

When Hamlet asks ”To be, or not to be: that is the question: Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer, the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles’ he could have been referring to the Franchising dilemma that today’s health and wellness providers are grappling with. To Franchise and grow quickly vs own and grow in a measured way.
Probably there is no right answer without a strong context. Franchising is basically a form of ownership. In a franchisee driven business such as Pizza Hut ““ the brand is owned by the company ““ in this case Yum foods and outlets are owned and managed by independent franchisees. So no matter which Pizza Hut or McDonald’s you visit the product, pricing and service experience is always similar and consistent.
This works because the franchisor and franchisee agree to the fundamental premise that each franchisee will always follow established brand and operational guidelines. This way of working allows the Franchisor to focus on ensuring compliance while the franchisee builds the local business.
While this framework works well in several types of retail businesses, in health and wellness it posts several challenges:
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Safety Matters

Not a day passes without a report of a major accident on India’s roads. There are people who lose their loved ones and people who have injuries that they need to cope with for years and years to come. Genuine mistakes do cause some of these accidents. Most accidents, however, are likely to be caused because of brazen behavior on roads, low rule awareness and poor driving ability. I have, as yet, not written anything new in all this but I do feel passionately for road safety. Everyday on our roads, we see people breaking every known traffic rule with impunity. So I decided that I will take photographs of these people and send them to police for whatever action they deem fit. Punish or Education was their choice. However, after about a week of diligently taking photographs of erring drivers I was exhausted. Sometimes I missed the right moment or there were simply too many people breaking rules in the same photo frame. I should have invested in a video camera !Perhaps, I should release a coffee table book called Signs of Traffic! Hmm..So after a lot of thought I have these questions :

  • Why can’t traffic monitoring cameras be put on each traffic light or busy areas?
  • Why can’t automobile companies look at safety related initiatives as part of corporate social responsibility?
  • Why can’t the advertising standards focus on ensuring ads do not encourage dangerous habits on roads?
  • Why can’t school curriculum focus on safety as an integral aspect of education?
  • Why can’t corporate entities focus on safety as integral to their work environment?
  • Why cant the law be modified to require traffic violators to compulsorily work in the trauma or emergency area of a hospital?

I’m sure there are more, but these are the ones I’ve thought about and come to mind as I write. If more come to mind, I will write about it.

Monitor Traffic with Cameras

My little experiment with a digital camera, while I was driven to work and back, convinced me that incase this were done it would really increase revenue for the traffic police. You might say it is very obvious. My thought is that maybe the reason it has not been done is because of funds prioritisation issues. Maybe, if that is the case, the concerned department could look at a public-private enterprise. My idea, focuses on a company taking on the responsibility of installing cameras and sharing revenue on a per car booked basis. Linking this data to insurance companies may result in increased revenue. The biggest benefit will be that roads will be slightly more safe to drive on. There are other related benefits of these cameras but I will focus on the safety aspect. Safety Initiatives by Automotive and related companies. Some out of the box thinking is required to address this issue. I feel the automotive sector has a huge social role to play in highlighting safety issues. A case in point is the Castrol Drive for Safety campaign. It effectively highlights the danger of talking on mobiles while driving (disclosure: One of the Castrol divisions is a client). There are so many issues that need to be addresed and I do feel the automotive sector needs to do more. Some of the initiatives that come to mind are:

  • Training centers that teach driving that are linked to dealerships and service centers.
  • Automotive Safety and Defensive Driving CDROM and other literature that is part of the kit of a New Car.
  • Airbags as standard fitment. I find it amazing that cars are sold with power windows but no airbags. Surely safety should have been given more priority. Am i being naive? If you gave the customer a choice between airbags and power windows at virtually the same price, what would they buy? Is human life different at various price points? Does the pain of loss or injury differ at different price points?

Responsible Safe Advertising

It’s a hilly road, a girl and boy on a bike ignore the diversion sign and the instructions of person trying to guide them away from a treacherous patch of road. It makes me angry each time! A man and a woman flirting about a cup of coffee. I’m sure this is common. What is uncommon is that they are breaking every rule book under the sun and they are driving their respective cars. Sudden u-turns, zig zags, you name it they have the move. Except that it makes me angry! A bright red car races down a picturesque and serene area, throwing water on a person who is relaxing. The look on his face does’nt seem to suggest he is going to buy that car anytime soon. It makes me angry each time I see it. I’m not the greatest expert on brand values and communication but I do know one thing.
Brand’s value propositions tend to focus on responsibility etc. How is it, that each of these ads seem to highlight a disregard for rules, potentially unsafe behavior and in the last case low civic sense. The group that owns the bright red car company, also has a chain of spas and hotels. I wonder how customer service managers of the spa will handle such a scene if it were to happen. Get a grip!, see the writing on the wall. People are getting hurt big time, communication ethics and advertising should focus on being responsible. Indian creativity, can surely come up with more responsible and cutting edge communication. Schools and Safety The reason we have low awareness of safety issues is because we have never really been taught safety.
Looking back on my school years, I dont remember more than a couple of classes on road signs etc. Over the years, that emphasis seems to have gone even further down. I have read the debate on sex education but I’ve not yet come across any debate on safety. I wonder why !In addition to the above, I don’t see schools put any effort on safety aspects of their students and teachers. I find it shocking that court interventions have resulted in standards being defined. It should have been part of individual schools agenda to ensure safety of their students and teachers. Even now implementation of these standards is fairly poor. One just has to stand outside each school to get a sense of reality. Schools are spending money on advertising, infrastructure upgradation. How about safety? Investing in safety will always be a wise investment. Train the drivers, ensure an optimum number of students are there in each transport vehicle. The vehicle itself has to have optimal safety devices . Could an automotive brand be associated and engage in a more meaningful way with its future customers. Safety in the Work Environment  When we first started working for Castrol BikeZone on an experience design project, we were briefed on the HSSE policy of the company. With specific reference to road safety, clear instructions to switch off the phone while driving and usage of seat belts while in car were given. Their emphasis on security continues even now. A lot of companies do have safety policies but somehow the implementation of these seems rather limited. In the booming IT/ ITES sector of India, I would highlight the following:

  • As the work day winds down in India, the work day in other parts of the world starts. At around 6pm onwards, conference calls are scheduled with other parts of the world. Most of these calls are fairly involved and long in duration. The interesting bit is, that a majority of the participants are in the process of moving out of office and driving back. Thus these calls are taken in the car while driving. Should the loss prevention or safety officer of a company be worried about these hazards? Yes! Are they worried? I need to do some research to get a better sense. My gut feel says not enough is being done.
  • The bpo boom has definitely resulted in a large number of people carriers on the roads. These vehicles carry staff to and fro from the workplace everyday. Most times, these vehicles are outsourced to a transportation company who has service level agreement (sla) with the bpo. Broadly speaking remuneration to the transportation company is based on the SLA which may include number of trips and people transported. It is fairly obvious that this system has some safety loopholes. Traffic rules are broken, long work hours of drivers and inadequate training issues result in accidents.

Similar instances exist in other areas as well. What is the benchmark of safety in such a scenario? What does one measure and how can road safety be improved? It should be a priority discussion topic within the corporate leadership. Service in Hospital Accident Trauma Center This is a slightly radical point but I do believe that some sensitization is required. There are too many aggresive drivers with a brazen sense of power. They drive recklessly and end up hurting innocent people. I strongly believe that people who have been involved in accidents should be asked to spend time and assist in trauma centers. They should see the destruction and pain caused on our roads. Maybe it will bring some good sense into these people. The core objective of this post is to highlight the issue of road safety and the proactive role a company or a brand can play. The objective is to find more ideas and solutions that solve problems .

Aspects of Experience

So what makes you feel good when you walk into a store, hospital, travel company, office or even a website? Many things im sure! Over the course of our work in experience consulting we have consolidated the key aspects of customer experience to the following seven areas Environment Accessibility Technology People Knowledge Service Offers.
Environment Over the years more and more companies are seeking to upgrade the appeal of the store environment by renovating their store environment. The first step generally is to take the help of professional designers to create the store’s physical design and to bring it to an international level. The elements that generally get a lot of attention are façade, product display, lighting and signage.
Some progressive companies are now experimenting with aroma and sound for the store. In my view effort should also be put in ensure that customer comfort is also kept in mind. It could be as simple a thing as washroom availability or more structured elements such as safety, sitting areas etc. It should however be kept in mind that each element should always be in sync with the brand essence. There is no point putting an element that does not seek to be a tool in building the brand essence completely. Accessibility A related aspect of the environment is accessibility. In simple terms, how easy is it for our customers to reach our store or interact in the store. In my view accessibility is not viewed with seriousness in most organisations. More effort should be put into issues that make our stores, hospitals, corporate offices etc more accessible to senior citizens, customers with special needs. The earnest with which organisations such as Max Healthcare have addressed customer issues with regard to accessibility is laudable.
An example of this is the electronic device that allows a customer with special needs to reach a part of the facility where they had to make steps and couldn’t make an accessibile pathway. This enables customers to go into the facility without feeling any discomfort. Technology Increasingly, technology is the enabler of various aspects of the customer experience. Integration of customer touch points to present a unified message to the customer is no longer a differentiator. Indeed it has come to be expected by the customer as a basic need. The customer expects to manage the relationship with the company and the sooner we provide, our customers, tools to manage interactions, the better it would be. Broadly, technology has a role in digital communication (web, pda, mobile), learning systems and relationship tools. In addition, technology enables communities of interest and companies should seek to build innovative solutions that are of value to the customer.
People Key to experience delivery is the team that will be interacting with customers. Integrated effort is required to build a team that delivers a world class brand experience. You cannot have an average team of players to win the world cup. Integrated effort is required in the areas of hiring, training, rewarding, measuring and certifying the team of super achievers. The days of the smart talking or rude salesmen are over. The customer is looking for integrity and evaluates brands on the integrity of their promise. KnowledgeThe key to delivery of experience is the knowledge of the team about various aspects of product and service. How efficiently this knowledge is disseminated to team will determine the kind of commitments our teams make to customers. Companies are investing in teams of people who develop product related content as well as on competitive information and also situation related content. This content is delivered through an integrated learning management system. Another aspect of knowledge is the understanding we have of our customers feelings. These are typically in the form of customer feedback systems and service measurements. However, currently a lot of organisations treat them as periodic activities.
Increasingly the companies that integrate customer knowledge systems with their learning and certifications systems will be more effective in winning customers. Service and OffersIn addition to providing a unified experience to customers at various touchpoints, it is increasingly imperative for companies to think of customer situations and then integrate their services at the store, at customer homes and on the phone. Currently, a lot of companies tend to have a very unidimensional view of the customer in terms of how a customer interacts with them and the services that are provided. The direction towards a wholistic view of the customer is building momentum and this will surely go a long way in providing enhanced experiences that make a customer feel good. The objective of service should always be to simplify the customer experience in line with brand essence. The same holds true for promotional offers as well.

Experience Integrity

Some time back, a news channel carried a report on data privacy weaknesses. The news report pertained to a female news reporter’s personal records, from two different service providers, being made available to just about anyone who could pay. The report then went on to describe how easy it is to obtain bank records and indeed anything! The ease with which this information could be sourced worries me as an individual and also as a professional who works in the area of brand essence. While the company may not be to blame as most of them work through partners and several critical processes are outsourced, my first thought was what does a company do to protect the privacy of its customers? While I would say that most companies have privacy policies in place, i dont think they are enforced or even enforceable given the state of processes on the same. So the forms, documents and web transactions – all the information that a company asks a customer to fill is essentially available for misappropriation. This may be available from either within the company or its partners. A single incident of information misuse can have potentially catastrophic consequences for the customer. Does anyone care ?Continue reading “Experience Integrity”