Okie dokey! Let’s talk about ideas for creating an “experience” as a targeted acupuncture marketing technique like we talked about last post, to help draw and retain patients. All of this is secondary (of course) to providing a quality treatment and a baseline pleasant experience. It’s about providing something more interesting, entertaining, nurturing, etc. – just a step above what your competition is offering. But it doesn’t have to be large-scale. The process of creating this experience for your patients should be fun, something you enjoy! Remember, it should resonate with you and feel authentic.
My Previous Office as an Example: (See other great examples here.)
When I was in private practice, I shared space with an esthetician and a massage therapist (at the Laurelton Wellness Group), and our office had a specific vibe or experience. I was grateful to get to share that space, and my patients regularly commented that they enjoyed being there, even enjoyed waiting for their appointments.
The reception area was small, with a long sideboard covered in teas and coffees for the Keurig machine, water, and more often than not, homemade baked goods. The lighting was soft (but not too dim) and there was always quiet music in the background, usually piano, along with a sound machine making the sound of the seashore, with waves and quiet birds. Overall, it was a place where you could easily fall asleep waiting for your appointment, and many patients commented that they liked that.
Whenever a patient walked in, we would always ask the patient if they wanted anything to drink. If they said yes, we would pour them a cup of water or make a cup of coffee. The patients were always impressed by this. It’s simple customer service, offering them something thoughtful that they’re not getting someplace else.
When deciding what kind of an experience to provide in your office, imagine your ideal acupuncture appointment. What would that would be like, in someone else’s imaginary office?
Where is it located? ● Is the office warm or cool? ● Are there snacks? ● What sounds are going on? ● What does it smell like? ● What colors are used? ● Is there a specific interior design or style? ● Is there something unique to the space? ● Is there entertainment? ● Something to read? ● A television? ● A lack of a television? ● Is there anything interesting going on at the office? ● A fundraiser coming up? ● Something you can interact with or contribute to? ● What’s it like laying on the treatment table after the needles are in? ● Are you warm or cool? ● How does the flow of checkout work? ● How do you feel during treatment and afterwards?
Would it be light, and bright, and airy, with modern design and eight different kinds of fun, funky tea to choose from?
Would it be quiet, cozy and warm feeling, with warm paint colors, soft music, and cookies?
Ask yourself if this imaginary space, and the experience that comes with it, is interesting and unique enough that you would want to go there, instead of somewhere else? Would it make you want to keep returning to spend more time there?
Let the examples begin. Again, these range from little things (don’t underestimate the strength of small, thoughtful details) to big things that take much more work. Some of these are about atmosphere, and some are about customer service. See what inspires you:
1) Have snacks and something for patients to drink at your office. A water cooler, a Keurig machine, homemade baked goods, or something specifically healthy if you prefer.
2) Make the point to offer the patient a cup of coffee or glass of water when a patient walks in, and then bring it to him or her. Now that’s service!
3) Have super-soft patient gowns (like flannel) instead of the heavy, awkward, stiff ones. Try your patient gowns on! Would you want to wear one of them?
4) Have customer service that goes above and beyond. If you don’t know the answer to a patient’s question while you’re on the phone, make sure you find it and call them back ASAP, even if it doesn’t benefit your practice, or if has little to do with acupuncture. If a patient called asking for infertility or a no-fault claim (neither of which I did at my office), I would immediately go online and look up the practitioners in my area that I could send them to, or who could at least answer their questions. They were always surprised that I went above and beyond to find them an answer even when the answer wasn’t, “Come see me for a treatment.”
5) Return phone calls within an hour. If I don’t have time for this, it might be time to get some front desk staff. Or at least have your voicemail tell the patient that you are extremely busy and may not be able to answer them for a few hours, but that you will be happy to do so as soon as you get a chance. Remember that the sooner you call someone back, the less likely you are to lose them to another acupuncturist who is providing them the convenience of answering his or her phone.
6) Provide handouts to patients to take home if you give them suggestions for diet or exercise. Don’t inconvenience them by making them try to remember!
7) Have a library of books for patients to borrow, and a system to keep track of it.
8) Have an esthetic for your office that evokes a particular feeling, whether it be comfort or trendiness, as we saw above.
9) Consider getting a table warmer (like this one from EarthLite) for your tables. I had one of these and my patients raved about it! Don’t underestimate how uncomfortable it makes some people to be cold!
10) Offer the patient choices – ask they want music or silence, for example. Coffee or tea? Blanket or no blanket?
11) Host raffles where the prize is something fun for the patient that doesn’t cost you money, like adding some extra Tuina or a brief foot or scalp massage to the end of the winner’s treatment. Each time a patient has a treatment in the month of September, for example, they get to put a ticket in the drawing for the mini-massage. It’s just fun; people always get excited about the possibility of winning something! It adds interest to their experience.
12) Host raffles and collect money for a local charity. Ask a local business to donate a gift certificate to help you raise money. (This gives them positive exposure, so many people are willing to do this.) Let your patients nominate a few charities, and then ask your Facebook fans which one they think it should be. Letting people feel like they have a say in your business gets them excited and involved (who doesn’t love to give their opinion?), and again, makes your office an interesting place to be.
13) Could you do outside treatments? Perhaps community acupuncture outside in the shade or sunshine? On a porch, in a garden? I always dreamed of doing this but didn’t have the space… imagine if you had the outdoor space, and a beautiful day, how divine this would be!
14) Host a “Patient Appreciation” week. Have a (small, inexpensive) giveaway for each patient you see that week, extra snacks and decorations in the office and perhaps a few decorations outside (balloons?) to let people know something special’s going on. You could host wellness talks in your office after hours that week (you could speak, or invite wellness colleagues to speak). There’s a whole host of things you could do without spending a lot of money, to make your patients feel pleasantly surprised and special.
Note: The giveaway I like to recommend is making copies of your favorite medication CD (this one is my all-time favorite, hands-down) on your own computer. You can purchase a big pile of blank CDs for under $10, easily.
15) Host ANY kind of fun event in your office, with the ideas from #14 above, to get people interested and excited. How about hosting a full-blown fundraiser? A wellness week? A healthy cooking/baking/raw foods class? Partnering with other local business to do a spa night? Yoga night? Infant massage class? Sponsoring a 5k and hosting educational talks about acupuncture for athletes? Almost any fun idea for an event will work brilliantly – you just want to generate interest in your office and show people your office is a fun place they want to bring their friends to.
16) Create a survey to ask your patients what they’d like to see in your office. People love to give their opinion, and if you follow through with their suggestions, they’ll be even more impressed that you were really listening to them.
Does your office provide a particular experience? Have you seen a positive response to this from your patients? Do you feel like it brings in new patients and/or helps you retain patients? Do you consider it part of your acupuncture marketing plan? Share your advice and suggestions!