by Geoffrey Charlton-Perrin
What’s that you say? I’m mistaken; you don’t have a marketing department?
Allow me to set you straight. You may be a nurse whose primary function is caring for patients. You may be a physician whose best work is done in the OR. You may be the receptionist greeting the patients and making sure their information is correct and up to date. I’d like to welcome all of you to the marketing department which, incidentally, you’ve been a vital member of ever since you joined the organization.
Like it or not, everyone in your ASC is an ambassador for the organization. Even if you do have someone specifically designated to buy advertisements in local magazines or send press releases to the community newspaper, that doesn’t let you off the hook. You’re still an unofficial, but just-as-important, representative whose job it is to create a favorable impression for your organization.
Let’s say I’m a potential patient and call to make an appointment. The phone rings and rings … and rings some more. No one seems eager to pick it up. At the other end of the line, the receptionist is on the phone with her girlfriend blissfully discussing the double date they went on over the weekend. Or, let’s say I get through but the receptionist makes it plain that she’s too busy to give me the time of day or is just plain rude. Do I grit my teeth and take it in order to make an appointment, or do I politely bring the conversation to an abrupt end and call another ASC?
What if the receptionist is friendly and professional and I get in to see a physician who can’t seem to take his eyes off his smartphone while I’m reciting my symptoms or interrupts me to call out to a passing colleague about yesterday’s NFL game? Do I leave that office brimming with confidence that this practitioner of the Hippocratic oath will have my full interests at heart? Or, will I make a mental resolve to seek out another physician?
There are no prizes for correct answers to the above.
Some years ago, I was plagued by intense pain in my shoulder. On the advice of a colleague, I went to see an orthopedic surgeon who specialized in shoulder surgery. This man was straight out of a Hollywood film set; striking, with carefully-coiffed silver hair, impeccable in a freshly pressed shirt and slacks, he was warm and friendly, listened attentively to my case, conducted a few simple tests on my shoulder, told me what he suspected was the problem, ordered an X-ray (which confirmed his diagnosis of a rotator cuff tear) and we agreed on next steps.
Over the course of my treatment and procedure, I found out that this surgeon looked like a model from a TV commercial every day – fresh-starched shirt, pressed slacks, firm handshake, pleasant demeanor, intelligent conversation. And guess what? He – and his surgeon assistant – turned out to be extremely accomplished and gave me back a fully performing shoulder that I’ve never had a problem with since.
“Ah, yes, but … ” I hear you say. “Looking like a million dollars doesn’t guarantee that he was a master of his art.” And I’m sure you are following that with, “He could be a short, fat man with a stutter, or an unkempt woman with an absent-minded air, and still be a wonderful practitioner.”
And you would be right.
But, alas, in this world, perception is reality. If you come across as a disinterested, rude, slovenly and uncaring person, for that moment in time you are. No potential patient will have the patience or inclination to delve into your back story to discover that you were feeling under the weather that day; or you had a fight with your partner that morning; or someone rear-ended you on the way to work. “Yes, I realize that the nurse was offhand, but she’s been having trouble with her eleven-year-old.”
It doesn’t matter. The damage has been done.
I’ll agree that you can’t necessarily look like Brad Pitt or Angeline Jolie in scrubs. But you can be professional in your bearing, attentive to patients’ needs, helpful with problems and courteous in your manner.
Which brings me back to my original statement. You are in marketing whether you signed on for that or not. How you conduct yourself; how you treat your patients; how you do your job reflects on the organization. Your actions can either polish your brand image until it gleams; or trample it into the dirt till it’s almost impossible to get the muck off. That’s something worth keeping in mind at all times.
About the Author
Geoffrey Charlton-Perrin is Director of Marketing and Communications for AAAHC, the nation’s largest ambulatory healthcare accrediting organization. Previously, he was Director of Marketing for the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau, and before that president of a major Chicago advertising agency.