By Zach Zavoral
January 14, 2013 – Southwest finished 2012 with the highest profit margin among all airlines. If you flew Southwest and a competing airline last year, you know why Southwest is the profit king: their customer experience is king. From low flight prices and no baggage fees to allowing passengers choose their seats, Southwest analyzed what customers of all economic classes wanted and catered to those wants.
But Southwest wasn’t always king. It started as a small business like your chiropractic practice, trying to establish a business identity and grow a loyal customer base to increase profitability for years to come. In today’s economy, service and patient experience determine every consumer’s decision when cost differentials are minimal.
For example, potential patients searching for local chiropractors to treat back spasms know health insurance will cover the visit. The patients know the co-pay will be about the same no matter which DC they visit. The patients also know the treatment options won’t vary much. The variable that patients will base their decisions on begins with what they see in online reviews, what they hear from friends and family, and what your web site may say your practice offers.
Regardless of the channel, people hear about your practice if you offer something unique that sets you apart from other chiropractors. Maybe it’s an overly kid-friendly waiting room, a minimal wait time, validated parking, or free dietary supplements, offer something unique and special to your patients.
When brainstorming on inexpensive in-office perks for your patients, focus on the uniqueness of the offer. For example, most chiropractors already have a TV in their waiting room, and a flat-screen won’t set you apart just because it’s fancy. Instead, add something truly unique that you’re excited to tell patients about, like a shoeshine from the receptionist with every visit. It’s random, it’s quirky, it’s helpful and it’s definitely unique. Put yourself in any patient’s shoes, no matter how grubby those shoes may be: you could see the chiropractor with a flat screen TV in the waiting room, or see the chiropractor with an old TV you watch while your shoes get spiffed up for free.
I recall my much younger years working as a waiter for a local diner located inside a large auto mall. The service departments of the auto mall’s dealerships gave every service customer a free $10 gift certificate to our diner so they could grab a bite to eat and watch TV in a comfy booth while waiting for their car. It’s not genius or revolutionary, it’s simply thinking of the customer.
In the healthcare field, you can find several dentists offering small, free perks as part of their visits. They use those perks not only as loyalty enhancers, but as tools to calm patients who suffer from dental anxiety. Here’s an excerpt from their web site: “All of our treatment services include complimentary paraffin hand waxes, facial massages and lip therapy, delivered in a tranquil environment. Enjoy soothing spa sounds every relaxing moment and be entranced by calming aromatherapy.”
I’m not suggesting you turn your professional medical practice into a day spa, but small perks like “complimentary lip therapy” — or “chapstick” as us laymen would call it — brings patients to your practice.
Small, inexpensive services can change your business forever because they give your office an identity and drive new patients through the door. Those types of free perks turn a no-name small business into the industry’s most profitable, like Southwest.