Principles of Influence in Healthcare Marketing: Reciprocity
Continuing to define each of Robert Cialdini’s Six Principles of Influence, this article will focus on Reciprocity. We can all relate to being in a situation where we became a victim of obligation, which is how this principle is used to influence the way consumers respond to certain situations. For example, this past weekend I was at a restaurant where the waitress delivered the check on a plate with two cookies as a “thank you”. This may have been a way for the restaurant to give their customers a sense of obligation to leave a bigger tip, a 5-star online review or to entice them to come back in return for the cookies.
This can also be used in the healthcare industry to create a sense of obligation for patients to continue care, pay their bills on time, or even refer the physician.
Reciprocation for continued care. A great example here is gifting patients as they are checking out at the desk before leaving their appointment. It can be a small promo item, candy, or even a discount on their next service. Once they accept the small gift the staff member can then ask to schedule a follow up appointment. The patient will be more inclined to commit to another appointment. This also ties back into the previous article regarding the principle of Commitment and Consistency.
Reciprocation for billing. This one works backwards, as they are giving you something and in return you give something back. It can be a hassle for team members to collect outstanding payments for care. There may be a way to incentivize patients if they pay their bills within a 30-day window. Depending on their insurance coverage and out of pocket expenses a healthcare facility could do multiple types of incentives. To stay clear of insurance issues, a small gift card to a restaurant could be sent to the patient as a thank you under certain circumstances.
Reciprocation for a referral. A doctor can ultimately increase their referrals by simply treating their current patients with sincere care and devotion to taking the time needed to meet their needs and restore their health. A patient may very likely be motivated to give back to the doctor/hospital by referring them more patients if they feel they received quality care and results.
The most important gift you can give to your patients is high quality service…
There are many other ways reciprocation can be used to help retain patients and bring in new ones. Certain techniques will work for some, but others may not be able to incorporate them into their practices. The most important gift you can give to your patients is high quality service, and in return you will gain high quality retention and referrals.