Dr. Bala Subramanian talked in depth about healthcare marketing and the challenges such as synchronizing demand with supply and delivering consistent service quality. He explained all the Ps of Service Marketing namely Price, Product, Place, Promotion, People, Physical Evidence and Process with respect to day to day operations and marketing activities of Sankar Netralaya. He elucidated how marketing of services is drastically different from marketing tangible products. In Mr. Subramanian’s words “In healthcare marketing how to make the organization consumer focussed is the key to success”. Every communication, every process and every transaction, right from the time the consumer enters the hospital premises in his vehicle to the time he is billed and discharged, must be carefully planned and designed keeping customer at the centre stage.
He illustrated the five dimensions of Service Quality namely Reliability, Assurance, Tangibles, Empathy and Responsiveness citing the example of Sankar Netralaya. He emphasised that Service Quality, which has three aspects namely Interaction, Physical Evidence and Outcome, does not give customer satisfaction in isolation; it is just one part of customer satisfaction - the other two being situational and personal factors. These lead to certain expectations by the customers. Sankar Netralaya follows a Gap model where the focus is to bridge the provider gaps between the expected service and the perceived service received by the customer. He reiterated “How successful an organization is in bridging this gap between promise and delivery is the measure of its competitive advantage”
He explained that the reason of existence of Sankar Netralaya is to serve the community but since it understands that in order to survive it’s important to raise revenue and be self sustainable hence its business model is a mix of Corporate and Community Service. The hospitals need support in the form of donations only for trainings and equipments, in all other respects they are totally self sustainable.
He signed off with the message that though there was strong scepticism that a charitable hospital can never attract corporate clients and hence its business model will not be successful, but by carefully embedding customer focus in every activity for the chosen target market they were able to dispel the myth and carve a niche for themselves.
It was a great learning experience and gave a bird’s eye view on service marketing and specifically healthcare marketing.