A few years ago, a video of a Disney World employee, who walks the park dressed as the “Beauty and the Beast" villain Gaston, went viral. In the clip, Gaston beats a strapping young man in a one-armed push-up contest, and in another, he charmingly allows an 11-year-old girl to beat him in an arm-wrestling contest. There is little doubt this fellow was motivated by Disney's employee mantra that everyone plays a role in the guests' experience and, clearly, it works — comments beneath the videos urge Disney to give him a raise.

Consider that idea — that everyone plays a role in the consumer's experience. It's just one of many lessons that Disney — and other Fortune 500 businesses — can teach healthcare providers. But this one strikes to the heart of why the consumer experience matters: because happy Disney World guests are repeat customers. A 2016 study by Deloitte found the same is true for hospitals. The study analyzed the profit margins of hospitals with high, or positive, patient-reported experience scores and those with low, or negative, patient experience scores. The hospitals with higher scores, on average, had nearly 3 percent higher net margins, a finding that persisted even when researchers controlled for other impacting factors, like price.

“As patients increasingly 'shop' for healthcare services, enhancing patient experience is regarded as a potential driver of hospital performance, since it may strengthen customer loyalty, build reputation and brand, and boost utilization of hospital services through increased referrals to family and friends," according to the report published by Deloitte's Center for Health Solutions.

So what can healthcare providers and marketers learn from other industries about improving consumer experience and loyalty? A recent study by the American Hospital Association's Society for Healthcare Strategy & Market Development examined tactics used by electronics retailer Best Buy and drugstore chain Walgreens, but before we go any further, it's important to state that we realize there are nuances that make healthcare more complicated than most other industries. Consumers’ needs are rarely covered in one visit, the topics discussed are often deeply personal, and the stakes couldn't be higher. However, these experience strategies are universal enough to make any healthcare marketer reflect on their value and applicability in our domain.

Best Buy: Recognize your consumer's needs. All of them.
The bold-faced headline on the Best Buy Geek Squad's homepage reads, “Technology is an amazing thing — until it stops dead." Selling technology is Best Buy's primary business, but as the company has seen increased competition from online retailers, it realized it needed to do more to survive. Since the company's consumers are buying brand new technology, Best Buy recognized an additional need it could easily address: making that technology work when the buyer can't. However, for this retailer, looking for service opportunities goes beyond fixing or maintaining the products they sell someone. Best Buy also recognized that buyers of new technology usually have old technology they want to get rid of and began offering equipment disposal services. Customers can go online, find out what their gadget is worth, and trade it in, either in store or online, for a store gift card.

While there is no direct equivalent to gift cards in the healthcare industry, the idea remains the same: recognize that your healthcare organization has the resources to serve more of your consumers’ needs, and look for opportunities to do so. A 2016 Deloitte report finds that consumers are increasingly aware of how quality and cost are affected by the different players in the healthcare ecosystem. The report suggests improving a healthcare organization's communication with those players, from the pharmacist to the nurse to the health plan touch point and technology company, can be greatly beneficial. Sometimes that may mean an additional phone call made behind the scenes, as well as using digital communication tools — maybe for appointment or medication reminders. Take it a step further by coordinating with family and caregivers. Try to meet your consumers where they need you.

Walgreens: Strengthen consumer loyalty by adding value
For the more than three decades, pharmacists have been ranked among the most honest and ethical professions, according to people polled in the U.S. by Gallup for its annual survey about how Americans think of different professions. Walgreens knows its 20,000+ pharmacists are an asset and has started moving the pharmacists out from behind the counter and into the waiting room area. The idea is that trusted pharmacists can be closer to patients who will feel more comfortable seeking their counsel on a wider array of health concerns, beyond just filling and picking up prescriptions. It's part of the drugstore chain's goal to become the “destination for health and daily living."

By lifting certain physical barriers that impeded conversations consumers used to have with pharmacists — like the counter between the two — Walgreens thinks it can broaden the relationship, giving the consumer greater value, and gaining more of their business.

Consider the Walgreens example, and how you could adapt the change they made at their stores to your own healthcare system. There is no doubt your healthcare professionals could add more to your consumers' experiences; but the biggest barrier preventing them from broadening their conversations with consumers is limited time. The Deloitte report found that the number one interaction consumers wanted more of was time with a doctor or healthcare provider. "One in 3 consumers wants their provider to push them to be more active in researching and questioning their prescribed treatments," the report states.

Sounds like an opportunity? Look at where your organization can help create more of that invaluable commodity — time — and use the tools available to you as a marketer to encourage consumers to research parts of their treatment plan or push relevant content from your website to them through email, newsletters, etc. There might even be a fun way to present it — like homework for your health.

There are always lessons we can learn from other industries. All it takes is keeping an eye out and your energy up to adopt others' best practices. Want to learn more about providing engaging experiences for your healthcare consumers? Download our guide to Healthcare Consumer Experience Today.