As a final exercise, make a list of your daily work activities. Your list should include everything you do from the time you arrive at work until you leave. You may want to categorize your day into 15-minute segments. What do you do during your first 15 minutes at work? Do you check your e-mail? Do you retrieve voice mail messages? Do you go to a job site? Make a list of your activities for an entire day.
Map each activity of your workday to one of the five principles that create loyalty. Some of your activities won't support a principle, but many will. Just answering or responding to an e-mail may not map back to a principle; however, if you differentiate yourself by answering every e-mail within one hour or one day, then answering an e-mail could be mapped to differentiation. Responding to voice mail may not map back to a principle; however, if you use every phone conversation with your customers to substantiate people doing business with people, then map this activity to that principle. Map every activity of your workday to one of the principles.
After you have completed this exercise you will find that you support some principles more than others. For example, many of your activities may support the principle of effective communication, but you may be doing less to support the principle of value and assurance. When I work with a business and we use this exercise, we invariably discover one predominant principle that is being ignored. This one principle then becomes our target and we develop activities to support this principle.
Dr. Hall is the president and founder of Northwest Pathology Associates, a medium-sized pathology lab in the state of Washington. Dr. Hall began this medical practice nearly 15 years ago. Today there are nine board-certified pathologists in Dr. Hall's group. Each of these doctors is an equal partner in the practice. The business also employs six lab technicians, four administrative assistants, and an office manager.
Northwest Pathology Associates provides laboratory services to other doctors and medical clinics in the area. Because this practice does not have any patients of their own, Northwest Pathology Associates is totally dependent on other doctors in the community for work. Its customers are not the patients, they are the doctors who send specimens and tissue samples to the lab for testing.
Northwest Pathology Associates uses only the most modern and up-to-date equipment and practices. Because of its location and competition, this group offers the quickest turnaround times on all lab studies.
Unfortunately, while the community it operates in has grown, this pathology practice has seen little or no increase in revenue over the last few years.
When I first met with Dr. Hall and his associates, I found a wellrun medical practice and office. The office staff kept accurate records of every lab test that was conducted, including the results as well as when they received the specimen and when the results were returned to the attending physician. All the work that came into the lab was immediately tested and then assigned to a pathologist. The pathologist would study the lab results and then complete a report. The pathologist assigned to study any given lab report was random. On a given day, an attending physician might receive three or four reports from three or four different doctors at Northwest Pathology Associates.
My initial study of this business also disclosed that there were a total of 300 doctors in the area that might use Northwest Pathology Associates. Most of these doctors were using Dr. Hall's group for some of their pathology work, but few were using the firm exclusively.
We matched the activities of Northwest Pathology Associates to the five principles that create customer loyalty. This lab was differentiated by virtue of being the only local lab. Its value proposition was the fastest turnaround time on lab reports. It assured its customers of accuracy by having two pathologists read the results from every lab test. It effectively communicated with its customers through the detailed diagnosis outlined in each lab report. It was focused on its existing customers. It recognized the 300 local physicians as its entire universe of customers: All of its focus was on this group of doctors.
The one principle Dr. Hall's group had ignored was: people do business with people. These doctors were providing a superior service but spent no time in developing relationships with the referring physicians who were providing them with all their work.
There were some things we could do to improve or increase the activities that support each principle, but our predominant interest was in giving attention to the principle people do business with people.
Dr. Hall's office manager subdivided the firm's clientele and made each doctor responsible for approximately 30 clients. All lab reports and other correspondence to a client doctor would come from the same pathologist. In addition, the pathologists made quarterly phone calls or visited in person with their assigned client doctors. The intent of these visits was to thank their clients for their business and ask how they might improve their service.
Northwest Pathology Associates began sending a quarterly newsletter to the office of each of its client doctors. Each newsletter has a feature story about a lab technician or one of the pathologists. These stories are biographical in nature and many times describe a hunting trip or interests in a sport or hobby. The newsletters contain a technical report on a new procedure or a piece of equipment used in the lab. A regular feature is an ongoing tabulation of average turnaround times for lab reports. The newsletter is also a great way to introduce new services.
Northwest Pathology Associates's newsletter is an effective way to communicate. The newsletter supports the principle of effective communication; however, the newsletter's most important function is to support the principle of people do business with people. By sharing personal stories and the experiences of doctors and the staff, customers are learning who they are doing business with.
The point is that activities that support one principle may, in fact, support several principles. The newsletter supports effective communication, but it also reinforces the firm's value proposition, differentiates, and demonstrates people do business with people.
Since embarking on a mission of creating customer loyalty, Northwest Pathology Associates has seen its revenue and profit increase each year.