Perception – Part 2: Are you who you say you are?

Last Friday I did a blog about perception and perception of hospital services.  I also did a poll and asked you to choose what type of automobile best describes GVMH.  The choices were mini-van, Cadillac, and Model T. 

Mini-van won convincingly, and to be honest, I anticipated mini-van being the choice.  If you’re a hospital, being compared to a mini-van is good.  The mini-van is safe, functional and family friendly – all good things if you’re a hospital.

Rural hospitals like GVMH fight perception every day.  When a hospital is rural it’s often “assumed” that the hospital does not provide the same level of care as that of a larger metropolitan hospital, nothing could be farther from the truth.  Capability may be less but care is every bit as good and often better.   

GVMH will probably never perform organ transplants, open heart or brain surgery.  What GVMH can provide as well as anybody and better than most are diagnostic and primary care services.  GVMH is one of only a few hospitals in the world to have a 128 slice CT scanner, that means there are only a few hospitals in the world that can produce the quality of CT images that we can.  GVMH has a strong base of primary care physicians who take time to know their patients and manage their health, not just treat their illnesses.  I can go on and on about how GVMH compares but I’ve got a bigger point to make.

One way to overcome perception is to develop your brand and make sure what you think of your brand, and what your customers think of your brand, are the same.  A brand is a promise, a brand defines who you are, a brand is real because the customer experiences it.  I know, I’m taking a long time to make a point, but I’ll get there – I promise.

A brand is more than a logo, a brand is a thought, emotion or connection.  Think of a brand you know and trust.  I’ll use Harley Davidson as an example. I heard the CEO of Harley speak last week about how his company grew from a 5% to 49.1% market share over the past 25 years simply by creating their brand and making the brand believable – bear with me I’m just about to make sense of it all.

When I think of Harley Davidson I think of freedom, quality, excitement and value.  Harley Davidson hasn’t always been thought of in this manner.  In the 1980’s Harley’s brand was poor quality, over priced, unreliable and undesirable because that’s what the customer experienced.  Brand and perception are first cousins, it takes a long time to create a brand and just as long to change perceptions – hang on just a little longer, I promise I’ll make a point in just a couple more paragraphs.

A company can pick out a logo but it can’t determine it’s brand.  The customer determines the brand and that brand is developed by experiences.  In the hospital world patient’s don’t always know how to judge us clinically but they can judge us on how they are treated.  No matter how great the health care, if care isn’t provided the patient’s perception of the brand is affected.

If our marketing department were to do an advertising campaign “promoting” our brand of great care and friendly staff and the patient experiences anything different, we might as well have thrown the money spent on advertising out the window.  The brand must be believable and customers will believe what they experience not what they hear. 

In the 1980’s Harley Davidson told their customers they were building quality motorcycles but telling and doing are two different things and those customers learned not to believe the brand.  Harley Davidson had to do what it said it was going to do, provide quality motorcycles, and it had to do so for a long time before people began to believe in the “brand”.  You are who the customer thinks you are, not who you say you are – I told you I would make a point eventually.

Hospitals are no different, you’ve got to be who you say you are and you’ve got to live your values.  At GVMH our values are Quality, Professionalism, Accountability, Compassion, and Excellence.  Any time we don’t meet our customer’s expectations in any of these areas, we damage our brand. 

You can’t fake your brand, your brand is who you are and what you do, not who you say you are.  For a hospital the brand is judged at every patient encounter.  A patient who has an x-ray, lab test, ER visit or a hospital stay forms an opinion about the brand of the entire organization from that one encounter.  Here’s the point – every encounter is an opportunity to build our brand or damage our brand.  We want our brand to be our Mission: Exceptional health and wellness services with friendliness and compassion, but the only way to build the brand is to be friendly, compassionate and provide exceptional care anything less damages the brand.

I’m good with GVMH being a mini-van but my hope is that some day the perception of our brand will be a mini-van with racing stripes and spinners- safe, functional, family friendly, a heck of a lot of fun to drive from point A to point B and just flashy enough to make you take a second look!!!

About Craig Thompson

I am a young professional with two great sons, and I work in the healthcare setting. I am employed in hospital administration and serve as Chief Operating Officer at Golden Valley Memorial Healthcare in Clinton, Missouri. These are challenging and exciting times in healthcare and my blog will focus on healthcare, raising boys or being raised by boys, and living in mid America.
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