Posted by Teri Sun

Much like your average cup of joe with cream and sugar, customer experience in healthcare has become a commodity. Patients don’t have any sort of loyalty to a particular brand. In fact, 23% of patients see 3 or more PCPs in just 2 years. And unless you’re delivering a great experience, they’re not simply switching to a new doctor in the same hospital. They’re making a wholesale shift to the hospital across the street. A Press Ganey survey found that hospitals with patient satisfaction in the bottom 10th percentile lost 17% of patient volume.

To understand how hospitals can better secure patient loyalty, let’s take a closer look at how Starbucks is building a personal connection, trust, and – ultimately – loyalty with its customers.


A recipe for patient loyalty

In business school, you’ll often hear the story of how Starbucks trained its customers to behave. By having baristas repeat back a customer order with its proper name, the coffee chain drastically reduced the time to process an order. But a less studied, and perhaps more important, side effect is the brand loyalty this strategy also created.

Correcting your order for a large black coffee to its proper Starbucks name may seem rude, but it actually becomes a motivator for customers to get it right the next time. And when they do, they are rewarded with a sense of pride as well as a sense of belonging to the exclusive Starbucks community. Soon, they’re coming into Starbucks every morning and wouldn’t think of going anywhere else. After all, it’s the only place you can get a “Triple, Venti, Half Sweet, Non-Fat, Caramel Macchiato.”

From its own custom drink names, to lighting and ambiance, to writing your name on your cup, Starbucks makes you feel like you’re a part of an exclusive community. Psychologically speaking, when a person feels he/she has something in common with another person (or in this case a brand) it builds a greater sense of trust. That's because you’re more likely to believe that the other person really understands you and has your best interests in mind.


Serving a better healthcare experience

Hospital brands can form personal connection in a variety of ways. It can be as simple as greeting patients by first name when they check in. Or you can look for ways to build your own sense of community. For hospitals like Medical City Dallas and Norton Healthcare in Louisville, that means offering a farm-to-table cafeteria menu that shows patients how much it values quality food – just like their patients. And some hospitals are creating a sense of community through wellness classes like Yoga.

You can also form personal connection digitally. By creating online doctor profiles that feel more like stories than resumes you can build a personal connection between a patient and the provider before the first visit – boosting online appointment requests by as much as 300%.

And don’t forget one of Starbucks’ most popular ways of personalizing your brand experience: writing your name on your cup. While other coffee shops have you stand in line and fast food joints call you by number, Starbucks goes out of its way to personalize your cup. It gives you a feeling that they care enough to write your name, even if they don’t always get it right (actually that’s part of their strategy).

In marketing, we know that simply adding a person’s first name on an email can boost response rates by as much as 70%. And marketers personalizing their website content are seeing double-digit returns and increased consumer preference and loyalty.


From patient leakage to patient keepage

Forming a personal connection is one of several trust levers that hospitals can pull to build loyalty with patients. To learn about 3 other levers for building trust and loyalty with patients, watch our webcast replay, It's not you, it's me: 4 ways to stop patient leakage". Vicki J. Brown, former CMO of Joslin Diabetes Center shares practical ways to keep patients from having a wandering eye. Because, for providers like Mission Point Health Systems, keeping just 1% more patients can result in $1M more revenue a year. You could buy a lot of Starbucks with that.

Topics: B2Me, Strategy, Best Practices, Healthcare