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Get in Line, Healthcare Facility Marketing Manager

Loyalty to doctors—and hair stylists—is stronger than to any facility
Stephen Heitz, Chief Innovation Officer | Tim Trull, Chief Strategy Officer

If you’re a physician, our recent attitudinal segmentation research uncovered great news about patient loyalty—especially for primary care doctors.

If you manage marketing for a hospital or a clinic, we also uncovered insight on the potential for loyalty within each segment. Rather than using a single marketing message for attracting and retaining patients, our research reveals how necessary it is to craft separate communications—at least one for each type of patient.

LAVIDGE conducted a national consumer health care study in early 2020, with an amended survey in May 2020. The objective was to learn attitudes of healthcare consumers and define segments that share those attitudes—pre-pandemic and during the 2020 COVID-19 outbreak.

The study uncovered four key healthcare consumer segments:

  • Team Players - like and trust their doctors and are confident in the healthcare system.
  • Bystanders - are intimated by the healthcare system and healthcare providers.
  • Crusaders - feel that everyone should have equal access to quality healthcare.
  • Boss - conducts their own healthcare research and challenges their doctors.

This is the fifth in a series of articles in which we reveal several “Light-Bulb Moments” our research uncovered.

 LAVIDGE marketing research uncovered that patients are more loyal to hairstylists than doctors.

Light-Bulb Moment 5: Loyalty to healthcare facilities is lower than loyalty to doctors—or hair stylists

Consumer loyalty isn’t easy to come by. Health care facility marketers who often struggle to build a brand—apart from the following of specific doctors who practice there—know this all too well.

Consumer loyalty isn’t easy to come by. Health care facility marketers.It’s not that different from challenges which plague hair stylists, whose client rosters are at risk of frequent churn. In fact, customer loyalty to healthcare facilities is lower than to doctors—or hair stylists.

There’s no need to fret, however.

Savvy healthcare facility marketers may wish to take a page from the playbooks of successful hair stylists who learn what their clients want, and uncover exactly what’s required to build loyalty to their brand.

And, for primary care physicians, the revelation that 50% of respondents say they are “very loyal” to them is certainly inspiring.

Let’s take a look.

Win loyalty with insight on patient attitudes

The first step to building patient loyalty is having inside information about consumer segments based on attitudes. More powerful than demographics (such as age or income) which make campaigns feeltargeted, attitudinal segmentation allows you to get at real desires and needs which will actually effect change in consumer behavior.

Attract potential patients most likely to be loyal

A good way to start building patient loyalty is to attract Team Players. Those in this attitudinal segment are most likely to be very loyal. This held true in our research across the board.

Seventy-one percent of Team Players say they are loyal to a particular primary care doctor. Fifty-three percent of the same segment say they are loyal to a particular dentist, with 50% loyal to a particular specialist doctor. 

What we didn’t expect to learn was that while 39% of respondents say they are loyal to a particular hospital and 32% feel the same way about a particular clinic, both ranked lower than 41%, which is how loyal Team Players say they are to their hair stylists.

Loyalty among attitudinal segments varies widely

Bystanders and Crusaders ranked their loyalty to doctors, dentists, specialists, and facilities including hospitals and clinics significantly lower than Team Players. Their rankings, however, were often neck-and-neck with each other—with the exception of clinics—to which 21% of all segments, other than Team Players, say they are loyal.

Bystanders outranked Crusaders for loyalty to their primary care doctor (51% to 47%), dentist (43% to 48%), and specialist doctors, (37% to 33%).

The tables were turned for Crusaders who outrank Bystanders with greater loyalty to hair stylists (33% to 28%), and hospitals (21% to 20%).

Why seeking potentially loyal patients matters

Just like in any other business, building a base of people who return for services instead of churning new patients saves everyone time and money. The intake process alone, including managing and verifying medical coverage, can be time consuming and takes away from the real reason your practice exists—to serve patients.

When patients return year after year for wellness exams, you can feel confident they will also turn to you in times of need. You know them, know their medical history without a lengthy explanation and are well positioned to get to the heart of the reason they need your expertise.

While this is most definitely beneficial to the patient, it also saves medical business operations the hassle of constantly trying to find new patients to fill the daily schedule. And when you succeed at attracting the kinds of patients with attitudes and beliefs which mean they are most likely to become loyal, it saves you money in your advertising and marketing budget.

That doesn’t mean you should turn away patients who don’t fit the description of a Team Player, or even a Bystander or a Crusader. Simply be mindful of the audiences you intend to reach. For those times when your efforts clearly miss the mark, retool and try again.

The Boss is least likely to be loyal—except for hospitals

Of course, everyone needs medical care. Even the Boss. Just bear in mind that you’re going to have to work hard to win over a Boss patient, even as their primary care physician.

At 33%, the highest loyalty rank self-reported by this segment, nearly two thirds of them are going to require highly targeted encouragement to earn their repeat business.

In contrast, Boss respondents outranked Bystanders and Crusaders in a single category—hospitals. Of all Bossrespondents, 24% say they are loyal to a particular hospital. For Crusaders, the percentage who say they are loyal to hospitals dipped slightly to 21. An even smaller dip to 20% for Bystanders represents the lowest loyalty ranking overall for any segment in any category.

Your reality must live up to patient expectations

All of your work to attract the perfect patient with attitudes and beliefs leaning toward being loyal to healthcare providers will be for nothing if you don’t deliver on your promises.

Patients expect your facilities and waiting rooms to be welcoming and clean and running on time. They expect staff to be friendly and helpful. They will demand the time and attention needed to solve their health issues, and they will settle for nothing less than fair billing practices for reasonable medical and lab fees.

In short, to achieve true patient retention, be worthy of being their go-to provider of choice.

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