August 10, 2019

Are you using empathy to market to your customers?

By giD9UMPOQQ-55 Views-No Comment

No matter your industry, much of the customer experience revolves around a person’s needs and desires. Whether your audience is made up of engineers, teachers, or healthcare patients, using an empathetic mindset helps marketers connect with customers on an emotional level.

What is empathy?

The difference between empathy and sympathy is based on personal experience. Empathy is the ability to share and understand the feelings of another, whereas sympathy is a feeling of sorrow for another person’s experience without a personal understanding.

Since customers often rely on emotions to guide their decisions, using empathy to show understanding of a customer’s situation helps build a trusting relationship. Listen to what your customers need, place yourself in their shoes, and then use empathy in your marketing to make personal connections with your audience.

The following 6 recommendations will focus on strategies for employing empathy in the healthcare industry. However, these principles can be applied across other industries, as well.

1. Identify what your customers need

In the healthcare industry, your patient is also your customer, since they are paying for a quality service provided by your team. To improve the patient experience, you must first understand their needs and pain points.

To identify common stressors for your patients, your marketing team can:

  • Listen to service calls
  • Conduct patient surveys
  • Create a patient journey map

Both service calls and patient surveys give you direct feedback from the patient. When a customer calls with a question or respond to a survey, you hear patient concerns directly from the source. This feedback outlines the problems your patients experience, since when one patient has a problem, it’s likely others do as well. Trends in customer feedback provide opportunities to incorporate empathy into your marketing efforts.

For example, if your service team receives a call from a patient who needed to pay a past-due copay, your team’s response could be three-fold:

First, you should encourage the staff member who answers the call to be polite and courteous. Remind staff to consider the patient may be frustrated with the cost of his or her bill or irritated with calling to make a payment. Staff should empathize with the patient and provide a helpful resolution to the issue.

Second, if your practice typically collects copays at the time of an appointment, remind your front-desk employees to ask for copays while patients are in the office. This will save your patients time, and it will also improve your revenue cycle, since your team won’t have to follow up on late payments.

Third, leverage the feedback from the service call to improve your healthcare marketing. Include in your value proposition that your staff works with patients to make their doctor’s visits simpler. Your team determines a patient’s financial commitment at the time of service to help patients avoid late fees and collections. Show that your team understands how difficult it is to determine insurance benefits and medical costs. Patients will be grateful that team is committed to making their experience easier.

These simple changes stemmed from a single patient question, and they have the opportunity to provide long-term benefits for your practice. However, responding to service calls and patient surveys can sometimes feel reactive, rather than proactive. In this case, it’s helpful to look at the full lifecycle of a patient journey.

Creating a patient journey map

To improve patient experience–prior to learning about a problem or issue–it’s useful to create a patient journey map. Organize the patient experience into individual stages from prospective client to routine patient.

For many practices, a patient journey can be broken down into stages for research, consideration and scheduling. Examine each of these stages to determine how patients feel while experiencing each step. Consider their needs and identify means of engaging with them through your marketing.

Look at each stage of the patient journey through the eyes of your patients. What obstacles do they face? What questions do they have? Are they worried or concerned? Evaluating their thoughts and feelings helps you build an empathetic marketing strategy to enhance the patient experience.

In other industries, a patient journey map would be synonymous with your buyer’s journey. In the same way, you should examine a customer’s various lifecycle stages, and then look for areas where you can use empathy to improve the customer experience.

2. Show what you can do for your customers

To use empathy in your marketing materials, talk about the patients’ needs rather than facts about your practice. While patients may think their doctor’s education is important or that it’s useful to have additional nurses on staff, patients typically don’t find information about a practice’s operation and performance relevant to their needs.

Instead, show how your practice’s operations are designed specifically to meet patient needs. If your practice employs additional nurses during peak hours, explain the benefits of having additional staff members: Additional resources help the office team admit patients more quickly, thereby shortening a patient’s time in the waiting room and maximizing face time with the doctor.

All patient-facing marketing should be “patient-focused.” Make sure your website discusses a patient’s expectations, answers their frequently asked questions and shows imagery of patients interacting with their doctor.

Empathetic marketing makes your content relatable, and it humanizes your physicians to make them approachable for your patients.

3. Use storytelling

In addition to demonstrating the benefits of your practice, using empathy and storytelling during patient-provider interactions can be used to encourage patients to take action.

Many physicians have difficulty convincing patients to follow prescribed treatments. Telling short, relatable stories is a great way to describe the aspects of a treatment, the required medications and proper follow-up care.

Whether you’re encouraging a patient to prepare for a surgery or you’re asking for specific medication compliance, use a story to help the patient relate and make it easier for them to comply.

Since stories are easier to understand, sharing stories helps providers communicate clearly. When a story outlines the patient’s concerns, the steps of their procedure and the final outcomes, it illustrates the doctor’s understanding of how the patient feels.

Storytelling also helps your practice stand out against competitors. Most practices compare themselves based on procedural outcomes, hospitalization rates and other statistics, but using storytelling to demonstrate empathy with your patients will set you apart.

But keep in mind, there are many ways to tell a story…

4. Create informative videos

As we discussed previously, healthcare marketing benefits from showing the human side of healthcare. Using short videos can humanize your providers while marketing to your patients and educating your audience.

Videos allow you to take a complicated process, like a treatment plan or a procedure, and break it down into short segments with graphics and animations. By outlining the main points in simple steps, you can make your medical staff feel empathetic and approachable, while helping your patients know what to expect during the process.

Another benefit of working with video is that using multiple methods of communication build trust between patients and providers. Over time, a patient could hear their physician describe a treatment, read a brochure in the office and then watch a short video online. This redundancy of information gives the patient multiple opportunities to digest the data until they know what to anticipate during the course of their treatment.

Videos can even include patient testimonials. Testimonials incorporate a personal story into a video and are highly-relatable. The patients see themselves as the person giving the testimonial, and this empathy creates a strong bond between the patient and their video counterpart. (Just be sure to use real patients in the videos. Don’t rely on actors to give testimonials or it may not feel genuine.)

5. Provide empathy across all aspects of care

Empathy doesn’t have to be limited to discussions with a provider. Using an empathetic touch should begin the moment a patient enters the waiting room. From-front end administration to back-end collections, every touchpoint should consider the patient’s feelings and provide comforting assistance.

Even when a patient reaches out via phone or email to schedule an appointment, the responding staff should be courteous, friendly and helpful. Patients can feel a bit lost when navigating medical appointments and bills, so it’s up to the staff members to make them feel secure during their decision-making process and across all aspects of care.

6. Empathy leads to better outcomes, compliance and satisfaction

When providers treat patients with a higher degree of empathy, patients are likely to have increased positive outcomes. When patients believe a provider listened to their needs and concerns before recommending a course of treatment, they are more likely to follow the doctor’s instruction, leading to a higher rate of patient compliance.

Building trusting relationships and treating patients with empathy can lead to increased compliance with provider recommendations, prescribed medications and overall lifestyle changes. Patients often find these changes difficult, so having a positive relationship with their provider encourages them to take an active role in making a change.

Empathizing with patients provides benefits at every touchpoint throughout the patient journey. A new patient may be searching for a doctor, while having their questions are answered by a welcoming receptionist. A nurse may share a helpful instructional video to educate a patient on the steps of a procedure. Or a team member from collections may place a call with a friendly reminder that a patient’s bill is past due. No matter the situation, every positive interaction contributes to a patient’s overall satisfaction with their medical experience.

In today’s patient-centered healthcare market, more patients are shopping for high-quality, lower-cost providers. Patients desire quality service at a competitive price, as they do for any other professional service. Healthcare and consumer marketing share many similar themes for attracting and engaging prospects, so employ empathy in your marketing to generate more leads and keep your clients coming back.

Contact us at to learn how empathy can improve your marketing strategy.

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