Can your medical practice learn from big brands?

Great brands — and even products — tell stories. What do I mean when I say they tell a story? Well, Prius, for example, tells a story about fuel economy, eco-friendliness and caring about the planet. But it is a different story than other hybrids. One may get the same gas mileage from a Honda Civic hybrid; but the Civic doesn’t tell the same story as the Prius. Same with any Apple product. Even thought both sell computers, Apple’s story is completely different than Dell’s story.

What do you think about when someone mentions Harley Davidson? Now compare that to what you think about when someone mentions Yamaha or Suzuki. The story is in essence what people tell themselves and others when they buy a product or patronize a business.

But more important than having a story, I think, is that these companies are consistent with everything they do. In other words, what they represent, their brand, their advertising, the customer experience is consistent with their story.

If you visit a McDonald’s in Pocatello Idaho, I bet your experience would be consistent with a visit to one in Beijin. As a result, people know what to expect, which in turns creates loyalty to these brands.

We all know Apple sells sexy products. But they don’t stop there. When one visits their retail stores, we get the same look and feel. Their online experience is also consistent with their products and retail stores. It is clean, simple, sophisticated and to the point.

What does this have to do with a medical practice? Glad you asked. Just as these brands make connections with their customers via their consistent stories, we too can create similar bonds by telling a consistent story.

This way patients know what to expect at all times, thus creating stronger bonds with patients and their family members.

However, if your medical practice’s reality is not in alignment with the patient’s story expectations, frustration, disloyalty and poor customer satisfaction are bound to happen.

For example, does your policy say co-payments are expected at the time of service but you sometimes bill patients instead? Does your voice mail greeting say the call is very important, but the staff doesn’t always call back within a reasonable timeframe? Are the doctors top-notch, but the front desk staff (the face of your office) not so great with customer service?

Does the practice’s website say open until 5:00 p.m. but if a patient calls at 4:30 p.m. the lines are not always open? Do you have a sign that says patients have to show their insurance card at every visit, but sometimes the front desk forgets to ask patients for the card?

Are you consistent with your office hours? Or do you have the type of practice that only opens every other Monday from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m.; Tuesdays from 3:00 to 7:00 (but only for sick appointments). Well visits have to be scheduled at the secondary office, which also has different hours than location A. Wednesday you open when there is a full moon, except during the winter months… you get the point.

Don’t underestimate the power of a story. And don’t underestimate how powerful being consistent with your story can be. If it works for the big brands, why can’t it work for your medical practice?

Brandon Betancourt is a co-founder and managing partner for a private pediatric practice located in the western suburbs of Chicago. He regularly blogs at

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