by Jason LewallenE
very day, thousands of patients receive home-based services. The process usually means a hospital or physician discharge planner sends over information about the patient and orders for the requested service to the service provider of their choice. So the age-old question arises: How do I influence that decision to ensure I am chosen, or at least considered? For the answer, let’s turn to psychology.
How does your mind process choice?
First, we have to evaluate the factors involved with the presentation of a choice. Our minds naturally see a higher value in having multiple options. That means if we have to choose between an online shoe merchant with four style options and another website that has a selection of two hundred different shoes, you are more likely to choose the wider selection. The human mind perceives more options as a better value. In essence, it sees more opportunity, even if it is only a perception. In contrast, the number of sales conversions will be higher at the site with limited options. That means if the same amount of shoppers visit both websites, more sales will be made on the one with only four styles. You are probably asking yourself, “Why would they be more apt to buy from the merchant with limited options?” Science tells us that the more options we have, the less likely we are to make a buying decision at all.
The reason that less options often translates to more sales is that the mind cannot properly process more than a handful of possibilities at one time. That’s why most purchases are made after the potential choices are filtered down to just a few possible selections. Once the list has been refined to a manageable number of options, a choice can be made.
The final layer of the decision making process consists of how we filter many options to a reasonable and easier-to-process amount. This is called establishing a reference point. As new information is gathered about your choices, there are key aspects that make one option appear to be better suited for your needs than another. Consider the shoe scenario. If you are looking at the site with two hundred shoes but you only want running shoes, then your reference point changes. Anything that isn’t a running shoe is no longer one of your choices and the list is significantly reduced. The reference point is the key to influencing a choice.
Armed with that simple understanding of how choices are made, how can we use that to our advantage when working with referral sources? It begins with the realization that you and your competitors are basically the same. For a good portion of referral sources, that is exactly how they see your industry, but they are wrong. Each provider that knows why they are different and strives to be better will separate themselves from the others. That elevates your company to preferred status and changes the referral source’s reference point.
It starts with customer service
Most often, programs or specialty therapies are what companies focus on to separate themselves, but there is a compelling argument for customer service having the highest influence on loyalty from a customer base, even outside of our industry. How are you perceived when a referral source or patient reaches out to your office? When they call, do they talk to a person or are they forced to deal with a recording? Improving the experience for your referral sources can change the reference point of their decision process. If an interaction with your company makes them feel important, they are more likely to choose you than your less customer-service oriented competitors.
Demonstrate unique offerings
After you’ve prioritized customer service as a company-wide focus, it’s time to evaluate what you offer that few others do. As I stated above, programs are a great way to stand out, but you need to know how your programs differ from other programs. If you have a very specific oncology program and your main competitor has one as well, then they likely perceive two equal options. If you appoint a cancer survivor as a resource to meet with patients and offer support, then you change the reference point. Now your connection to the patient experience personalizes each referral you receive. The oncologist chooses between the company that has cancer support options and the one that doesn’t. While that is a simple example, it is that differentiation that can change everything.
Don’t forget outcome scores!
You can say you are the best until you are out of breath, but outcome scores are the undeniable truth that you produce great results. With new Medicare payment models coming into play, you will need great outcomes to even qualify to provide certain services. You need to have a plan in place to improve your scores and maintain a high level of positive care progress if you want to be competitive in the future. If you are already a top-ranked agency, then you should be selling on those outcomes. No physician wakes up and says, “I’d like to trust my patients with a subpar care provider today.” It takes your effort to educate your referral sources on how your outcomes are best in class, and when you do, they will again be able to adjust their reference point to choose you over your competition.
The final step? Great reps!
Great customer service, outstanding programs, and top-tier outcome scores will get you far, but without educating the referral sources on what you provide, you are just another provider. Many hospitals insist on using a rotation, where every company in their database takes turns getting a referral. If you are the only provider that can meet certain criteria, then they have to choose your company for those patients who need the unique service or proven outcome you can provide. That strategy falls short if no one educates your referral sources on your unique capabilities. It is the responsibility of your sales reps to keep your services top-of-mind and be available when help is needed.
Learning the psychology of choice can help you to understand how a decision is made, but ultimately all the pieces need to be in place to shift your referral source’s point of reference to one that puts you above your competition. Market your programs, outcome scores and customer service, and do it proudly. Not all providers are the same, and the more you separate yourself from the pack, the more likely you are to become the market leader.
Jason Lewallen is the National Business Development Manager for PlaymakerCRM. He can be reached at Jason.Lewallen@PlaymakerCRM.com.
©2016 by Rowan Consulting Associates, Inc., Colorado Springs, CO. All rights reserved. This article originally appeared in Tim Rowan's Home Care Technology Report. homecaretechreport.com One copy may be printed for personal use; further reproduction by permission only. firstname.lastname@example.org