Fundamentals and Strategies for a Sustainable Client Centered Relationship in the Healthcare Industry

An organisation only exists because it has customers – you exist for your customers. Business success is straight forward: create clients and keep them! Profit is the end result of satisfying your clients. How can a business attract as well as keep more clients? The answer lies in having a client service strategy that caters to clients while also taking company goals into account. Several principles of successful client service are essential for this type of strategy.

The following are fundamentals for a successful client centered relationship in the healthcare industry:

Even if you are not an expert in customer service, companies require a minimum level of service behaviour from employees. Greeting clients, being friendly, paying attention and making eye contact are among the ‘basics’ of customer service. In addition ignoring basic etiquette rules such as eating, chewing gum, drinking or gossiping in front of clients about your colleagues and company can get in the way of securing clients. Even if you don’t agree in your heart with certain things that your company does, displaying a positive attitude about your company is crucial.

Companies and clients value employees who have business awareness and can relate their job to the overall function of the business and environment within which it operates. Do your research and know your products. Having outstanding product and disease knowledge as well as knowledge of your competitors’ products impress clients and will secure repeat business.

Focusing on developing client relationships helps your company get to the root of what’s valuable in business. Extend the life of a customer. Even though closing sales helps you generate more immediate revenue, the lifetime value of a client ranks high in terms of affecting a company’s bottom line. It costs five times more to attract a new client, as opposed to keeping an existing one. The most important ‘order’ you can get is the second one! Taking time to talk to your client and develop a personal yet professional relationship is important.

It is equally important that others in your team and your manager develops a good relationship with the clients in your area.

Don’t make promises you can’t keep, especially about something that is not totally within your control. An excellent business image often stands on the promises a company makes and fulfills. A good rule to follow is to under promise and over deliver. Failed promises lead only to negative client experiences and lack of trust and as a result a negative impact on your sales results.

Your clients might be difficult, demanding, emotional, irrational, illogical, nitpicking, not always polite and courteous. They might lie, cheat, argue and complain, and, of course, rarely notice any of the good things that you do….just like you and me sometimes when we are clients! Setting the infamous client service rule that the “client is always right” helps you to win over more clients than you lose. As a result of using this rule, more clients walk away happy and satisfied when they think that they have “won” or are smarter than you.

The key to growth in an organization lies in having a caring attitude towards all clients, especially the ‘difficult’ ones. Remember: the client might not always be right, but they are always our ‘kings/queens’! In other words – even if you know that the client is wrong in what they say or believe – he / she remains KING/QUEEN. This approach has helped many a health care representative to be successful.

A common expression when discussing client service is to “walk the extra mile”. The power of differentiation lies in becoming passionate about client service. Many companies deliver good service and the human element can make all the difference and set your company apart. Reasonable service is about meeting customers ‘expectations. Outstanding service is about exceeding customers’ expectations. Going “above and beyond” involves taking the extra step to make sure clients have everything they need and more.

Client complaints are a great opportunity for companies to improve business and gain client loyalty, provided that the complaint is handled quickly, effectively and resolved to the client’s satisfaction.

When a client has had a bad experience with a company, he typically tells eleven other people; if the experience was especially bad, those eleven will each tell five others and there you have sixty-seven people discussing your incompetence! Following up with your companies medical department and giving feedback with regards to health outcomes or other product related information as required by the HCP is an essential part of maintaining long term relationships.

‘Walking the extra mile’ and exceeding clients’ expectations does not mean that a company must ‘bend’ the rules to retain clients. Dealing with requests that does not support company values can be a challenge. Using the usual phrase “its company policy” serves only to annoy and frustrate clients. It may be that the HCP expects of you to provide certain services which may be against the ethical business practices of your company. It may also be against the Code of practice for the marketing of health products in SA (this Code being a guideline for marketing of health products in SA.) Instead of saying that it is against ‘company policy’ or against the Code you may choose to say something such as:

Client service is all about expectations. Clients love giving input to companies that ask for it. Clients’ input may be collected by sending out surveys, by making telephone calls, or by leaving comment cards on tables. Listening to these suggestions and making changes to your products or services based on these requests makes clients feel special and valued. Clients like personal attention and who knows best what they want than the clients themselves!

Your company may expect of you to do many other company specific guidelines in order to ensure that your clients are loyal to your company. The fundamentals mentioned above are a good start.