News flash: Whether you work at it or not, your healthcare foodservice business is a brand that leaves an impression. You can allow people to think what they want about your operation and your healthcare brand or actively manage how you’re perceived.
I really like this definition of branding from Gordon Food Service Commercial Customer Segment Manager Doug Owens: “Your brand is your promise to your guests that is unique and readily identifiable, supported by demonstrated behavior, and executed by your team.”
This reiterates that business is about customer perception.
The businesses that are best at portraying who they are have something I call the “It Factor.” The “It Factor” is what draws people back, again and again, because they have created a brand that resonates with us.
Think of the places you’ve sworn off, determined never to return to again. Those places do not do “it” for you. Now, consider the places you love to enjoy, the ones you frequent again and again, because they make you feel good. Those places have “it.”
What does this have to do with healthcare? Everything! Food and nutrition departments have been on a mission to connect with their customers for as long as I can remember. This isn’t new news, but with reimbursements being tied closer and closer to customer satisfaction, it’s becoming more and more relevant.
Here’s the kicker: the “It Factor” isn’t one dimensional. It’s everything that contributes to a customer’s evaluation of your operation. Think of your customers—including residents in long-term care facilities and their loved ones, patients, staff and all visitors—as embarking on a journey through your establishment. Everything you do along their journey will either positively accelerate or negatively decelerate their path to deciding whether you’re “it” for them.
I like to refer to the critical moments customers will experience on their journey with you as touchpoints. They are a series of opportunities to influence your guests and optimize their dining experience. Attend to these seven touchpoints and you’ll be well on your way to achieving the “It Factor.”
1. Take a look. Get out front and look at your service the way the customers see it. Is everything clean and inviting?
2. Publicize your menu. Get those appetites going and be sure to highlight anything unique. Consider posting it online to drive sales.
3. Develop your team’s expertise. Customers love to ask questions about their food. Can your servers answer how something is made? Can your room service delivery folks explain an item?
4. Tease the taste buds. How do you describe an item on your menu? Take a page out of a restaurant menu and get descriptive—use adjectives and play on the senses.
5. Lookin’ good. We eat with our eyes first; are your plates picture-worthy? Food presentation is theater, so set the stage for a satisfying experience.
6. Rethink your recipes. If possible, provide a link that gives enhanced product info, serving tips and scaled amounts to help your staff. Incorporate as many fresh ingredients as possible.
7. Say “hello” and see you soon. Demonstrate that you want a customer’s business. Always be the first to say “Hi” and invite someone to come back when they leave.
While I’ve only scratched the surface of this topic, hopefully you’re beginning to understand the role touchpoints play in branding. By using them to strengthen customer relationships, your operation can garner a positive perception and coveted “It Factor” status.