Acupuncture marketing tips from car salesmen, you say?
When most people think of buying a car, they immediately think: Aggravating. An ordeal. Trying to sell me stuff I don’t need.
Let me tell you right now, that’s not what this post is about.
This post is about the good car salesmen. The ones who say, “Thanks for letting me earn your business,” and mean it. Don’t give me that look. They’re out there.
So, obviously, I bought a car this week and had a much better experience than expected. And I was strongly reminded of something: that in sales, customer experience is everything.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: In acupuncture sales, patient experience is everything.
Before we get into the details, don’t think I bought a new car ’cause I’m fancy. No, no. Fancy I am not.
I was in a minor car accident in early December, one that was not my fault. Even though the damage looked minimal, it was apparently serious enough that the insurance company declared my car a total loss. Sincere sad face 🙁
So once I got my insurance check, off to a dealership I went, worried that it would be a stressful, drawn-out, and aggravating experience. Cheers to being pleasantly surprised.
Let me ask you a question:
What do buying a car and acupuncture have in common?
Many people approach both situations with a certain degree of trepidation. People expect car-buying to be a negative experience. People expect needles to be scary. In both cases, there is a need to create an unexpectedly wonderful experience that dispels these negative feelings and expectations. That’s where car salesmen can teach us a thing or two. At the dealership I went to, it was clear that they were trying to create an experience to make me forget the stereotypes surrounding buying a car. They took the stress out of the sale.
Let me ask you another question (since I’m on a roll here!):
How often do you think of your acupuncture practice in terms of sales? How often do you sit back and consider that ultimately, in convincing people to try acupuncture, you’re selling both acupuncture and yourself – your skills and knowledge?
I know that’s a tough pill for many acupuncturists to swallow. Sales and running a business is not why you went into acupuncture, right? You just want to practice the medicine – not sell it. But despite this distaste, “sales” should be something you think about all the time, not just something that enters your mind when you’re having a slow week.
But car salesman make no bones about it. They approach a potential customer with one thing in mind at all times – the sale. Arriving at the sale through providing an absurdly good customer experience is the lesson in this post.
In my experience with this car dealership, I felt, very keenly, that everyone’s goal was to make sure I had an outstanding experience.
What did the dealership provide that exceeded my expectations so much that I ultimately decided to buy my car from them?
- Convenience and elimination of obstacles:
The dealership sent someone to pick me up at the rental car agency, instead of making me ask my boyfriend to take time off from work to bring me to the dealership. When I first explained this situation to them, their immediate response was, “Don’t worry. We’ll take care of it.” And they did.
They also drove me back and forth between the main buildings on their grounds, instead of making me walk for even a few minutes. And of course there were plenty of snacks, water and coffee at all times. Food is small thing that makes me very happy. Essentially, they thought of everything. I was never inconvenienced even slightly.
- Courtesy and listening skills:
The politeness and attentiveness were extreme. I brought my Dad with me because I think it’s a good idea to bring back-up when you’re buying a car. But I look young for my age and I often worry that I won’t be taken seriously. I was concerned that the salesman would speak only to my father, and ignore me. But the salesman was polite, listened well, and made it clear that he understood I was the one with the money to spend.
- Patience and willingness to explain things repeatedly:
I like details. I don’t like buying big items without knowing exactly what I’m getting. I ask questions over and over, to make sure I understood correctly the first time. Basically, I’m a pain in the butt. But everyone explained things repeatedly with patience.
Why would the dealership go through so much trouble to make my life easy, comfortable, and convenient? They knew that whether I had a good experience would impact:
1) Whether I decided to buy a car from them, and
2) How much money I’d be willing to spend on that car.
AND – they knew that I knew that. They knew I had the upper hand, and that my satisfaction with the entire experience would impact their salary.
Let me say that again. My satisfaction with the entire experience would impact their salary.
How often do you think about this in regards to your patients? That the patient experience, as much as the patient outcome, impacts:
A) Whether patients wants to return,
B) How often they will return, and
C) Whether they’ll refer their friends and family to you.
*All of which impacts your salary.*
The difficulty for many acupuncturists is the realization – and acceptance – that we are in a customer service industry. And in customer service, it’s 100% about the experience. Our income depends upon our ability to see what a patient wants out of their experience, and to provide it to the best of our ability. This includes, of course, the outcome, such as whether the patient’s pain went away. But it’s also much more than that.
What’s the lesson in this for acupuncturists, or anyone with a service or product to sell?
Because the patient EXPERIENCE counts the most, you must create an experience that sets you apart from your competition. What do you do that is special, that goes above and beyond? Again, the patient’s outcome is important – did their pain go away? But it’s also about the journey that the patient takes to arrive at that outcome. What was that journey like for them?
Let’s say a patient has recalcitrant pain that just won’t go away. Not in 12 treatments. But overall, they enjoyed the experience of being at your office. They felt empowered by taking a role in their own wellness. They enjoyed your company, and the time you spent speaking with them. Even though they didn’t get better, they’re likely to refer their friends and family to you, because overall their time spent with you was a positive and pleasant experience.
This sounds like a no-brainer, right? But the point of this post is to remind us all that:
1) Acupuncturists are in a sales and customer service-oriented business.
2) Our income depends DIRECTLY on patient satisfaction, which is based on not just the final outcome (pain vs. no pain), but largely on the patient’s overall experience.
3) As a result, every so often we need to step back and assess how we’re doing on the customer service front, and determine if there’s anything we can do better. Do we need to do anything to keep the patient experience fresh? Are there areas where we’ve slacked off that we need to pick up again? In short – how can we always be doing better, moving forward for the benefit of our patients?
Ask yourself whether or not you meet the standards set by my car dealership:
- Elimination of obstacles
- Excellent listening skills
- Willingness to explain things repeatedly
- Availability of snacks. (Yeah, I added it. I like food! People like food!)
All of these things, delivered at a very high level, set my dealership apart and made it an easy choice for me to spend my money there. (Notice that it’s MY dealership now, not just A dealership.)
Do the same thing for your business:
Let your kindness, courtesy, patience, and great listening skills set you apart. Go the extra mile for your patients. Provide them with something unique that sets you apart. Surprise them with your attentiveness and customer service. Dispel those myths that acupuncture is something to be scared of. Gain a reputation for quality treatments AND for providing an outrageously good acupuncture experience!
What do you provide in your office that pleasantly surprises your patients? What advice would you give to others who are looking to go above and beyond patients’ usual expectations?