What would Apple do?

As long as we seem to be on the best-in-class business band wagon, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at how Apple does business. I’m not talking about the cool products or the seamless software (which makes people wonder how they did it) but rather a more fundamental aspect, the brand/customer interface.

Apple has become synonymous with easy when it comes to technology. Their first question in product development or customer service seems to be, How can we make (insert buying music, making movies, etc.) easier than it has ever been? That philosophy starts from the top down with its chairman and leader.

 Wait a minute, isn’t that what all consumer based products or services should do, make things easier for their customers? So why does Apple seem to get all of the credit for such an “easy” business premise?

What did Apple do so effectively that no one else has?

It created a desire through transparency.

Apple made the help desk a destination and an incredibly positive experience. Not only can a customer come in and be enlightened by one of the geniuses behind the Genius Bar, but other customers with the same question can be similarly enlightened and engaged. The bottom line is that people accept and understand that everyone hastechie problems and they aren’t alone (…so lose the self-consciousness!). Better yet, they feel good about being a part of this group of newly empowered Apple users.

A convenient byproduct for Apple retail stores is that they always seem to be busy. Beyond that, with every new product there seems to be a line of enthusiastic zealots starting 24-48 hours prior to the product even being released at the store. They happily pay a super premium to be the first to own the newest “Apple.” And all while the country has been wallowing in the great recession, and as numerous other electronics and computer stores have fallen by the wayside. (Does Apple know how to do business or what?)

All of this activity and positive energy accomplishes two very important objectives:

1 – It strips away the “behind the curtain” mystique of technology and makes it a user-friendly encounter.

2 – These educated customers comprise the crowds in the store casting the pebbles creating the ripple effect Apple sends throughout society. They create buzz.

The first objective is met by virtue of operations, and the other forms an undeniable marketing tool.

While Apple does make it look easy, make no mistake it is a consistently evolving and tedious task of refinement. It is a philosophy that permeates every aspect of the company.

Apple has empowered the once hapless computer neophyte and made them feel like they can take on the world. Apple has given them hope and better yet, a reasonable understanding of what they might achieve.

That very same mystique exists now in Healthcare (and it is a huge opportunity). How can we bring the primary patient issues out from “behind the curtain”? How can you empower your patients to become confident and trusting, singing your praises, returning again and again while minimizing patient A/R?

Start by asking how can we make everything easy – a simple black and white proposition?

Apple does this very elegantly when it comes to in-store service and support. The make it all available online with a sophisticated scheduling system broken down geographically. They offer you the closest location, at the most convenient date and time. They even do a little recon, or pre-op, so they can have a basis from which to explore the challenges the customer is facing. Again, it is all about the customer.

How can this be literally parlayed to your practice?

1. Start by offering patients their choice of appointment schedules online

A. be transparent – allow them to see your schedule openings

B. allow them to have a second choice if their first may not be available

2. Offer your patients numerous payment options

A. most practices now accept credit cards – be sure your practice accepts the major three (Visa, MasterCard, Amex)

3. Offer your patients individualized payment plans

4. Offer your patients informed help

A. designate one of your staff to become a Patient Service expert

B. offer a help line staffed by people familiar with the patient records as well as insurance procedures and approvals

C. you might even offer a public forum for your patients to help one another out – many of your patients already trust you with their lives and they would be happy to help out a confused or uncertain patient

5. Above all find a way to let your patients know what to expect with all of the known variables

A. get pre-approvals on any expected procedures

B. follow up on those approvals to ensure the percentage of payment  expected

C. let your patient know what their responsibility is as soon as possible

Finally you can visit www.crtmedical.com or call me, John O’Green, directly @248-679-1606. We have some new ideas for medical billing services that will improve your practice performance and help make your life being a Doctor as easy as being a Doctor again!

CRT Medical is the largest medical billing company in Michigan. It is also one of the oldest, having flourished in the industry for over 30 years.

Apple logo is a registered trade mark of Apple Computer.

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