In this age, hospital services have gone beyond the conventional way of doctors sitting in their clinics, reading newspapers or engaging in other vain discussions hoping that patients would patronise their healthcare services. Various private hospitals have carved out a niche for themselves using relationship management, customer relations and hospital marketing techniques to expand their business. Although the prime aim of hospital/healthcare establishments is to save lives, the truth is that private healthcare services are profit-driven as owners have to cater for various expenses and overheads to keep the business moving. Those who run healthcare business grapple with regular payment of staff salary, procurement of new medical equipment, maintenance of computers and buildings, payment of electricity bills, procurement and fuelling of power generators, maintenance of official vehicles, communication expenses, staff seminars and printing of receipts, appointment cards and medical report sheets. Just like a good product, a good hospital service sells itself. This comes mostly through testimonials from people who have practically experienced the service(s).But a good product or service cannot, by itself, propagate its services to the users. Certain machinery should be put in place to achieve this end. Although medical bodies such as Nigeria Medical Association strictly prohibits hospital advertising, the dynamic nature of medical business, not only in Nigeria but globally, has made it mandatory for Health Maintenance Organisations (HMOs) to place their advertisements on the pages of newspapers, over the radio/television and on the Internet under the guise of health insurance, since insurance does not forbid advertising its services to various target groups. Good customer care/ relationship management matters in healthcare business because keeping the existing clients—that is, the patients—seems easier than getting the new ones, as satisfied clients will do a lot of our testimonial appeals for us to the new prospects. Some people will use our service on the recommendation of a friend or sibling. This is because patient who feels good experiencing our medical service is most likely to stay with the healthcare and make recommendations to others about us. In these days of sophisticated and well educated customers, patients look beyond coming to the hospital and being attended to in the “usual manner”. They want to experience an informal contact (tactile communication); they want the doctor to tell them what they don’t know in medicine because many of them have already googled their internet to know about their ailments before consultation; they want to feel like they are in their homes; they want to feel that they are in safe hands and they want to be healed by the words of mouth of the doctors in charge, nurses on duty as well as all other contact points— i.e. the staff—in the hospital. Hospitals therefore establish mutual relationship with several HMOs as well as corporate companies (on retainership) and families or private patients to garner more companies on their clientele. STAGES OF COMPANY DEVELOPMENT
Various business organisations launch their products/services into the market to claim some market share. Right from the time a product or service is newly introduced, there is always scramble among companies that offer similar services or produce parity products to have some comfortable share of the market to their advantage. In order to achieve this, most producers or service companies have good positioning of their USP. Some hospitals have ATM where patients can easily withdraw money to settle their medical bills without any stress of going to the bank. Some have supermarkets where people on appointment can take some bread with drink before taking their drugs or injections. Others have immaculate environment befitting of a healthcare. Each of these is a strength, a unique selling point (USP) for their...
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