With allied health services, consumer behaviour can be divided into three main stages. This is important to grasp as it can have implication for the way we communicate to our clients about our products and services. Understanding each stage means we can gain a better understanding of why consumers behave the way they do and allow you to deliver services that result in greater consumer satisfaction.
The three main stages of service consumption that relate to allied health private practice are as follows:
1. Pre-purchase stage
This stage involves creating an awareness of need and continues through a process where consumers search for information and start to evaluate alternatives in deciding whether to choose your service or go elsewhere. In this stage, consumers work to gain information, clarify their needs and explore solutions. The needs of the consumer can be triggered by the unconscious mind, physical condition or an external source (such as marketing). When consumers start to evaluate alternatives, you need to be aware of what this involves. Consumers will look at the information they can find (advertising, brochures, websites) and also review information from third parties (word of mouth, referral from a doctor, blogs, awards). They will also discuss options with other service providers or talk to other consumers.
2. Service encounter stage
This stage occurs when the consumer has made a decision on where they will purchase their service and make arrangements to have an appointment. In this stage, the consumer interacts directly with the service and its people. The attitude, transparency, friendliness, helpfulness and overall experience of the service makes a great impact here. Service facilities are also important and include signage, waiting room, treatment space. If you provide a home visit service, this stage is still important. You need to make a good impression.
3. Post-purchase stage
In this stage, the consumer evaluates the service – your service! Did you live up to their expectations? Was there satisfaction or dissatisfaction? Did they feel they received value from the service? Finding ways to evaluate this can help you work out where there may be small parts of your service that you can tweak to improve the consumer's experience. If you have never completed a client satisfaction survey with your clients, you might consider this option.
Understanding these three key concepts to service consumption is a great start to identifying how you will market and communicate the value and benefits of your services to your target audience and ensuring they receive exceptional service once they have chosen you.