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Four ways to market your healthcare clinic in the UAE

Four ways to market your healthcare clinic in the UAE

Paid promotions are just a small part of the overall marketing mix

The UAE’s private healthcare sector has undergone a massive shake-up in recent years, with the advent of mandatory health insurance sparking a proliferation of clinics that are all keen to tap into the market.

So how can you make yours stand out from the crowd?

Mention marketing and most people automatically think about paid promotions, but that’s just a small part of the overall marketing mix. And, when it comes to the very personal business of healthcare, it’s by no means the most important.

Here are our top tips for giving your clinic the edge in this competitive marketplace.

1. Be smart with pricing

In a crowded market, it might be tempting to drop your prices to attract and retain patients by undercutting the competition. But this is unlikely to help.

Making low price a selling point will give the impression that your clinic offers a bargain basement level of service, which is definitely not what people are looking for when it comes to healthcare.

While the employers who will be responsible for paying your patients’ health insurance premiums are looking for value, it’s also in their interest to demonstrate that they take their employees’ wellbeing seriously.

How to approach pricing

You need to keep an eye on your costs to maintain a reasonable profit margin while avoiding your fees becoming prohibitively high. But it’s also vital to maintain the quality of service you provide.

The best approach is to focus on efficiency, while making sure that doesn’t have a knock-on effect on key indicators of patient satisfaction, such as courteous and respectful service.

Joining an umbrella group is a positive approach to addressing this issue. This will give you access to benefits such as economies of scale and improved negotiating power with insurers.

2. Work on word of mouth

In 2015, research by data analytics company Nielsen showed that word of mouth is the single most powerful way for companies in Africa and the Middle East to build trust in their brand. It found that 85 per cent of respondents said they somewhat or completely trusted recommendations from people they know, compared with just 62 per cent for radio ads.

Opinions shared online, including on social media, are an important new form of word of mouth. Interestingly, online reviews and comments are more trusted in this region than anywhere around the globe. In the Nielsen study, 71 per cent said they somewhat or completely trusted consumer opinions posted online compared with 60 per cent in Europe.

Added to that, as a marketing method, it costs little or nothing.

How to boost word of mouth

Simply providing an excellent service is the best way to encourage people to recommend your clinic.

However, people are more likely to share negative than positive experiences with a brand. A 2013 report by independent market researchers Dimensional Research revealed that 45 per cent of people shared bad customer experiences on social media compared with 30 per cent who shared good ones. In person, 54 per cent shared bad experiences with more than five people compared with 33 per cent for good experiences.

Encourage your customers to write online reviews of your services by sending an automated feedback follow-up email with a link to a healthcare review platform. Better still, make it a personalised email, thanking them for attending and asking if everything went well. This gives you a chance to address any issues promptly.

It’s also important to monitor online feedback, addressing patients’ concerns and showing that you take customer service seriously.

Another way to make the most of ‘word of mouth’ connections while building brand awareness is to blog on health issues, enabling readers to share your posts through social media sites.

3. Improve your customer service

No matter how strong you feel your customer service is, there’s always room for improvement.

Your reception staff are the first people patients interact with, so they are important representatives of your brand. Do they answer the phone promptly and politely and speak to patients in a professional yet friendly tone? And do they have access to all the information they need?

How about your clinicians? Are doctors, nurses and other clinical staff courteous and respectful?

How long do people have to wait after arriving for a scheduled appointment? If there’s a delay, do staff apologise, explain the reason for the delay and keep them updated? Do you provide cold and hot drinks, up-to-date reading material and access to free wifi?

Basics such as these are important, according to 2017 research by Gallup, which found a strong correlation between extended waiting times and low patient satisfaction.

How to improve customer service

Commission some mystery shopping, comparing the patient experience at your clinic to those of your competitors.

You might also think about carrying out occasional patient satisfaction surveys. A 2014 review of studies in the Oman Medical Journal found that when it came to patient satisfaction, the following factors were consistently ranked as important:

· Interpersonal skills in terms of courtesy
· Respect by healthcare providers
· Communication skills, explanation and clear information

Ideally, continue to conduct surveys periodically to monitor satisfaction levels and check the impact of any changes you make.

4. Think about appearances

Is your waiting room clean and well presented? Is the décor up-to-date? And are the toilets always clean and well-stocked? How about your consultation and treatment rooms? Do they feel fresh and hygienic and put people at ease?

If you fail on these basics, patients are likely to be put off from coming back, no matter how good the treatment they receive.

When you work somewhere every day it’s hard to view it through the eyes of an outsider. However it’s a worthwhile exercise to try.

Carry out regular, thorough assessments of your waiting area. This should include checks for cleanliness and tidiness in the waiting area and rest rooms, availability and accessibility of refreshments, provision and restocking of hand sanitiser, updating of reading material and helpful notices and signposting.

Asking for patient feedback via surveys is also a good way to monitor how real patients experience a visit to your clinic.

Once you become aware of an issue that needs attention, address it as soon as possible. Regular patients will be sure to notice and appreciate the effort you’re making.

Mark Adams is chairman of The Healthcare Network

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