Have you ever wondered how the most recognized brands in a culture become dominant? Books have been written on the topic and there aren’t enough words in a single article or blog post to cover all of the factors that contribute to building a five-star-brand.
While we might not be able to cover all the components, there is one key factor that is immutably constant in building an outstanding brand. That factor is the ‘experience’ a customer, client, or patient has with a business. More specifically, ensuring that the customer’s experience matches (or better yet, exceeds) their expectations.
Is Your Healthcare Real Estate Creating or Eliminating Brand-Friction?
Friction is defined as a force that opposes motion between two surfaces that are touching. When a patient visits a healthcare office, two entities are touching, so to speak (the patient and the practice), and the encounter produces friction to varying degrees.
Brand-friction is a huge factor in customer-patient experience. On a conscious and sub-conscious level, every customer of a business is evaluating how much friction exists between getting what they want from a provider and what that provider is actually giving them. Is this process of getting and giving easy and pain free (or better yet pleasant), or is it laden with friction and negative experiences? This is the essence of brand friction.
Just like in physics, friction causes heat. We have all experienced a phone call with a company’s customer service department where there was high-friction in getting what we wanted. In a brand experience, this heat exchange is emotional, and it can leave a patient feeling hot or cold about a company or practice. It’s been said that it takes as many as ten positive experiences with a brand to override one negative experience. Regardless of the accuracy of the 10:1 ratio, no one can argue that a negative experience is difficult to get past and has more sticking power.
Brand-friction is highly subjective, as every human has his or her own views and tolerances for measuring friction in an experience. However, there are some constants that can be agreed upon.
“There can be as much value in the blink of the eye as in months of rational analysis.” – Malcolm Gladwell
It may or may not bother an individual that a doctor’s waiting room is a little small and feels slightly cramped. To some this might cause a feeling of anxiety, to others it may not even register. However, everyone would agree that a healthcare waiting room that smells like cigarette smoke and has ashtrays on the end tables would be a major point of friction for a patient. This is an extreme example obviously and non-existent in this era of healthcare, but it illustrates the point.
The majority of businesses pay far too little attention to brand friction points in their customer’s experience. The ones that take full inventory of these points, with intent to make them better and continuously improve, are the brands that rise to the top of any vertical and dominate a market.
The Brand Experience Begins with Location
Ask anyone what one thing is most important in securing real estate and you’ll likely hear the adage “Location, location, location.” It’s said so often it has become a platitude. While it is not always the single most important factor, it is very important. This is particularly true when location is interpreted to mean a collection of key location-factors as outlined here.
1. Town, City or Suburb
Choosing an area to locate a practice in is a big decision. It’s not just a branding and image decision, it also has impact on demographics served, competition saturation, referral partners, lifestyle, and related stressors (e.g. traffic, drive time), doctor-patient interaction and relationship, and earning and retirement potential.
2. Proximity to Other Amenities or Businesses
Where’s the nearest hospital? Retail center? Office park? Grocery store? Airport? Hotel? Etc.
Depending on the type of healthcare practice, the distance from other practices or amenities could be a deal breaker. For example, if a well-known surgeon has a large patient base that flies in for procedures, being located near a major airport is key. Other practices thrive on pedestrian traffic, making a high-volume retail center or bustling office park an ideal location.
Of equal importance to parking is access to the property from the nearest main road or highway. For example, some medical office buildings located on a hospital campus can be situated so far away from the nearest arterial road that it feels like driving through a labyrinth for a patient to access the office. This is a frustrating experience for some patients, in particular a senior demographic that may not be as familiar with using GPS apps to find locations.
Visibility from the road is of great importance to certain types of practices, like optometry, and not as important for others. With regards to branding, take into account how much of the marketing strategy depends on drive-by traffic (be it pedestrian or vehicular). A significant number of healthcare practices choose to invest in higher visibility properties as a form of marketing their brand.
Closely tied to visibility is signage. Building, monument and internal directory signage all come into play. Does the signage available align with the need for visibility? Does the signage permitted align with the practice’s brand standards?
Some properties might offer sign exposure so great that it warrants paying a premium for the space. Keep in mind however that as with any advertisement, after a certain period of time, passers-by begin to ignore signs. This is known as ‘banner blindness’ in online media, but it applies to physical signs as well.
In summary, the location of your office is a key factor in establishing your brand. Hitting homeruns with regards to these five location-factors can be the difference between a mediocre practice that never realizes full potential and a thriving practice with an outstanding brand experience that becomes a market leader.