What can the healthcare industry learn from online retailers?

Answer: lots!


Changing times

Customer engagement has become a top priority for online retailers, but why not for the healthcare industry? 

Ok it isn’t a new focus for them, but what is new and continually changing, are the many ways in which online retailers are able to (and do) engage with their customers.

The stats: more than 400 million tweets and 3.2 billion Facebook ‘likes’ are posted every single day – something that online retailers have recognised in terms of the unprecedented opportunity that this presents in gaining feedback from customers on a global scale. 

Take smart phones, they now account for more than half of all mobile phones, and tablet computers now outsell laptops. The result of this technology progression is that consumers are now more informed and connected than ever before.

Online retail customer engagement therefore is no longer characterised by one-way, retailer-initiated communication. Instead, it’s a dynamic, multi-channel, two-way communication stream, with customers readily engaging with retailers and other customers via blogs, games, product reviews, customer service, community forums, and social media. 

The retailers have realised that in order for them to compete effectively, their customer engagement techniques need to reach across all platforms and extend well beyond the actual product purchase. After all they know that highly engaged customers tend to spend more on each purchase and make purchases more frequently. And, that they also tend to give retailers valuable, often unsolicited, feedback for improving the quality of their products and services. 

Highly engaged customers are also less likely to complain publicly about disappointing shopping experiences, choosing instead to resolve issues with the company directly. And most compellingly, highly engaged customers are more likely to encourage their friends and family to become customers.

In total, as unofficial brand advocates, these customers can do more to promote trust and confidence in companies than even the best advert campaigns:

10% of highly engaged customers trust brand advertising

70% of highly engaged customers trust recommendations from a friend

So isn’t it time that the healthcare industry took a leaf out of the online retailer customer engagement book? 

So how does this translate to the healthcare industry?


All healthcare organisations – both NHS and private sector, compete nowadays for patients to maintain their income levels. So why are healthcare organisations not investing the right levels of time and resource into effectively engaging with patients/relatives/members of the public/and the millions of ‘Members’ on acute trusts’ databases?

You need to have continual open, honest and informed, two-way conversations with these people about your services – to understand what works well, what doesn’t, how services can be changed or improved etc. After-all, service users often know better than anyone how things could be made better.

Patients as paying customers (either through NHS funding or privately funded) have the power to not only increase your revenue streams through ongoing commitment/repeat purchase or onward referral, but also have the power to enhance your brand. What do I mean by that? Well how important is it for you to get really positive results in your Friends and Family test, or for patients to sing the praises of your services to their friends via social media sites? Really important right?

Don’t forget one crucial nugget of information - the more engaged and positive your customers/patients are, the less likely they are to increase your DNA rates!

On the other hand though, these patients/customers are also the same people that would potentially affect your brand through negative letters to the local and national media, and negative posts on both their own and your social media platforms – and we all know how destructive and damaging these can be.

Start engaging effectively and reap the rewards

Healthcare organisations (especially those in the NHS) have traditionally been very bad at effectively engaging with their population/customer base.

Online retailers have learnt the true art of engagement and healthcare organisations should learn from them. You should be developing a multi-layered approach to your engagement activities, above all encompassing- e.newsletters, blogs, podcasts, text messaging, social media posts etc. 

I hope that you found this post thought provoking and helpful. If you want to find out more give me a call, it would be great to have a chat – always happy to answer any questions and help out. 

Good luck in your enhancing engagement mission!