Under My Skin



A couple weeks ago I visited a nondermatologist colleague at a famous academic hospital. (Boston has many.) The floor of each landing in the parking garage was emblazoned with a message: "Highest in Customer Satisfaction!" A huge banner across the hospital’s front entrance read, "Rated #1 by U.S. News & World Report!"

The crowded lobby had a futuristic sculpture, a CVS Pharmacy, an Au Bon Pain cafe, and a franchise gift shop. Alongside a central seating area was a display of medical breakthroughs by the hospital’s staff. The lobby’s ambience felt quite similar to that of the new eastbound rest area near exit 9 on the Massachusetts Turnpike, though the highway facility has more restaurants.

Some of you may despair at hearing this. You may not have a restaurant in your waiting room, or even a Keurig coffee dispenser and flat-screen television flashing promotional announcements, as my ophthalmologist does. But fear not, dear colleagues – this columnist rides to your rescue!


I admit that I watched too much of "The Roy Rogers Show" as a kid to be able to hear the word branding without thinking cow rumps and red-hot pokers. But today you want to be not just a doctor but a brand, the way tissues are Kleenex and Google is searches. But how?

One technique large companies use is audio branding – associating their name with a short series of tones. Think of the five tinkling notes at the end of every T-Mobil commercial, or the "Ba Da Ba Ba Ba – I’m Lovin’ It!" of McDonald’s.

Because I can’t afford a composer, human or computerized, I needed something in the public domain. I got it, the first four notes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Here’s what you’ll hear on my new telephone outgoing message (and in the videos on my website): "Welcome to the office of Dr. Alan Rockoff – DA-DA-DA-DUMMMM!" Hey, it’s got pizzazz, even gravitas.

I know you’re jealous that I thought of this, but don’t even think of using it. You can have the Sixth Symphony.

Customer Satisfaction Surveys

After I took my Subaru in for a lube, oil, and filer service, the dealer sent me an e-mail customer satisfaction survey. Two days later I received a phone call reminding me that I hadn’t filled it out yet, so I did. Then I got another phone call. It would be just six questions.

"I filled out the survey already. Honest!" I said.

"On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being ‘excellent,’ how would you rate your experience?" asked the voice. "5!" I replied, to each of the questions. "On the survey," she continued, "you understand that for any rating less than ‘excellent,’ the automaker punishes the dealership." I said I understood. "Can we do anything to enhance your customer experience?" she asked.

"Actually," I said, "you can stop badgering me with repeated customer surveys."

So, colleagues, now that you know how the pros do it, why not do likewise? Here’s how:

• Write a questionnaire that lets your customers (remember when we used to call them "patients") rate your service: ease of scheduling, courtesy of staff, promptness of appointment, appropriateness of treatment, and so on.

• Ask them to rate each on a scale of 1-5, with 5 being wonderful.

• Explain that any rating under 5 will make you very, very sad.

• Collect all questionnaires that make you very, very sad. Discard them.

• Collect all questionnaires that make you very, very happy, and – with permission, included on the questionnaire – post them on your website, Yelp, Angie’s List, and Google Reviews, indicating in each case that you are a "5-Star Doctor." (If Harvard does it, what makes you so special?)

Look for more marketing advice in future columns.

This advice is of course meant for the dwindling numbers of you who, like me, are in business for themselves. That model is basically gone. Younger colleagues will be joining large groups and institutions, whose marketing departments will take care of things like putting logos on parking-lot landings, hanging banners, and dropping leaflets on beaches in midsummer.

I will now sign off. This is Dr. Alan Rockoff. DA-DA-DA-DUMMMM!

Dr. Rockoff practices dermatology in Brookline, Mass.

Next Article: