Public sector employees, especially clinicians, can struggle with the concept of ‘marketing’ what they do. In the NHS, there still exists the feeling of being overwhelmed by demand and the last thing you would want to do is attract more patients!
However, applying marketing tools to your service can be highly revealing and beneficial. Consider the traditional way that goods are marketed; the 4 ‘P’s:
Product: the thing you are selling
Price: the price to the consumer
Promotion: any special offers or high-impact advertising
Place/distribution: where you offer your product, how you get it to the consumer
At first glance, these 4 don’t seem to fit with providing a health service! But give a moment’s reflection and you’ll see where they make sense. For example, under ‘product’, how could you let patients ‘sample’ your product before they ‘buy’? Is there information easily available about your hospital or service? Do they know what to expect, or what’s coming next?
Even more interesting is the extension of the 4 ‘P’s to 7 ‘P’s of services:
People: the staff who provide the service and interact with the patients
Physical evidence: what’s the impression given by the surroundings? What have I brought home with me to remind me of my visit?
Process: has my experience been seamless?
So, for instance:
People: it would be hard to overstate the importance of the personal interaction in the user’s assessment of the quality of the service. Production and consumption occur simultaneously, so the user associates the quality of the service by the behaviour of the provider. In the NHS, there is very little training and control of the providers’ personal behaviour; the focus tends to be on the technical competence, rather than the ‘bed-side manner’.
Perhaps it’s time to systematise the training of customer contact skills in the NHS, especially the frontline staff?