Tom Falk, the CEO and Chairman of Kimberly Clark, the maker of Kleenex, Huggies and other leading brands, took his board to visit Costco, one of their biggest customers. Now, I’m at Costco weekly (there is one within 10 minutes of my house), but I suspect that the Kimberly-Clark board members are not regular shoppers (although one never knows!). Falk’s goal was simple, “It helps them to understand the business in a more hands-on way than presentations in board meetings ever could.”
Let’s change directions and go down the corporate ladder. If you staff is removed from your customers, they are not able to best serve them: they are less able to anticipate needs, spot needs that your company can serve, and are handicapped in their ability to best provide the goods and services the customer needs and wants.
Every day, your staff works with your patients, who are clearly your most important customers. But a medical practice has other customers as well – referring physicians, hospitals and other institutions, health plans, employers (to some extent) and others who refer people to you in a more informal way. You need these customers, and they need you as well. By bringing them around to visit these customers, your staff gains a better understanding of these organizations, and can build their own relationships. The more levels where you have relationships, the more that gets done on a day to day basis, and the more secure your relationship becomes.
With many millions of dollars of business at stake, CEO Falk will take his board and spend a day with an equally large customer (Target was their site visit last year). You may only spend an hour or two in your visit, but it’s enough time to open the relationship. You can follow-up by inviting people over to your practice – a brief tour (unless there is something particularly interesting) followed by some discussion of how you are working to improve patient care and outcomes through education and prevention. Bringing in lunch (again – your nickel, not a drug company’s) is a good setting for this part of the visit, for both your discussion and informal “getting to know you” afterwards before your guests leave.
In many ways, business is about who you know, and who you can get to know. Get to know your customers today.