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Christopher Webb - Ambulance Marketing Consultant

Ambulance Marketing: Friction Burns
Christopher M. Webb

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Friction. Defined in scientific terms it is the resistance experienced when one object
moves against another. Perhaps you remember sliding down the rope in gym class or
wrestling friends on the carpet as a child. Run around the block too fast in a tight fitting
pair of corduroy pants and you’ll know the kind of friction I’m talking about. Friction can
add work, damage, and even pain to any activity from sliding a backboard over a leather
seat cushion to being restrained by a seatbelt during a collision.

I may have deceived you a bit because, despite the title of this article, I will not be
discussing injuries caused by friction but instead will be talking about a different kind of
friction entirely. In this day and age we often take for granted much of the work that
companies have done to make our lives easier (and increase their sales). For example,
walk into your local electronics superstore and not only will you find a comprehensive
offering of televisions, car stereos, washers and dryers, and other related products but
you’ll find that these products are in-stock and ready to walk out the door with you today!

It doesn’t stop there, however. The corporate giant that has brought you this smorgasbord
of electronic toys and house wares has done a lot of work to make sure that buying these
items is quick and easy. Payment methods include cash, check, debit, credit, in-store
financing, layaway, and sometimes even trade. Product displays are placed at eye level
and built to showcase items in the most efficient way possible. Staff members are trained
on the features and use of all the products they sell and have all gone through very
detailed customer service training.

Companies don’t do this because they love us; they do it because some well educated
researchers and professionals have identified that it doesn’t take much to lose a sale. In
fact, it’s the little “frictions” that often times are responsible for that customer walking
out the door.

As far back as humans go there is history of us exchanging one good for another to
survive. Whether we’re exchanging four arrowheads for a piece of pottery or we’re
forking over $1500 for a flat panel television, these types of exchanges have and will
always be a part of our lives and survival in this arena will come down to friction.
Friction in the sales process that is.

Consumers, like water and electricity, will take the path of least resistance when it comes
to buying the things we want and need. Any hurdle that pops up between the time we
realize we need or want something and the moment we actually take possession of the
item is going to produce “friction” in the process of us buying (or them selling) that
particular good; friction that may cause us to look somewhere else to have our needs

There are an unlimited number of factors that can produce friction in the sales process
and to date there is not a single example of a completely frictionless sales process out
there. The distance of a store, accepted payment options, availability of product
knowledge, atmosphere, length of checkout lines, speed of delivery, and a million other
things can impact how much friction exists in a particular sales process and to what
lengths consumers must go to in order to procure the items they need. With that said,
when two companies sell functionally similar products (in marketing we call these
products substitutions), the competitor with the least amount of friction in their sales
process will almost always win the customer’s business.

Friction can happen at any point in the sales process and to get a better idea of where this
friction can occur and what we can do to fix it, we must dissect our sales processes into
clearly identifiable steps. Let’s take a look at a typical private ambulance company’s
sales process beginning with step 1.

1. A case manager realizes the need to transport a patient
2. The case manager determines whether he/she knows where to get this service and
if not, does research to find a provider
3. The case manager calls the provider to arrange the transport
4. Dispatch answers the call
5. Dispatch takes necessary information from the case manager regarding the
6. Dispatch inputs the information and schedules the transport
7. Field crews receive the information and go enroute
8. The field crew shows up at the pick-up facility, finds the patient, packages the
patient, and loads them onto the ambulance
9. The field crew transports the patient to the destination
10. The field crew unloads the patient, and goes back in service

Now that we have at least a preliminary map of our sales process, we can pay attention to
each step to identify friction that could occur in that step that could make it more difficult
for our customers to buy from us.

I will not go into great detail about each step but let’s come up with at least one possible
cause of friction in each step.

Step 1. Is the case manager knowledgeable enough about patient transportation to order
the right service? ACLS Ambulance, BLS Ambulance, Wheelchair Shuttle?

Step 2. Have your marketing associates visited with this case manager and provided
business cards, pens, calendars, or other items with your number printed on them for easy

Step 3. Could you have avoided this step if you had dispatch call first thing in the
morning to proactively schedule transports for later that day?

Step 4. Does your dispatch center answer in the first few rings? Are they polite and

Step 5. Is your information gathering process standardized to get all the required
information in a quick and easy fashion?

Step 6. Are dispatchers writing all this information down on paper first then inputting it
into a computer system thus increasing likelihood of error?

Step 7. Are field crews receiving this information in a timely manner and responding

Step 8. Does the crew need a bariatric stretcher? Do they know what floor and room to go
to? Did they get adequate directions to the pick-up location?

Step 9. Is the ambulance fueled and stocked with all needed supplies? Do they have
adequate directions to get to the destination facility? Has dispatch warned them that the
freeway is at a stand-still due to a multi-car MVA?

Step 10. Does the crew know what floor and room they’re going to? Did they ensure to
leave all the patient’s belongings with the patient? Are crews moving quickly to get back
in service?

As you can see, by looking at each step in our sales process we can begin to identify
areas that could create friction in our sales process and in turn also create dissatisfaction
with our services. Each one of these steps can be further broken down into sub-steps for
even more analysis. With each possible friction we identify, we get that much closer to
identifying what changes are needed to reduce the friction in our sales processes and start
winning customers away from our competition.

I have obviously simplified the process of reducing friction in your sales process but what
you should be able to gather from this quick read is that by focusing on the issues that
cause you to lose sales you can begin the process of identifying the same factors that will
make it possible to win sales in the future.

Take some time to split out each of your own company’s sales processes like we did
above and you’ll be on the road to increasing productivity, raising customer satisfaction,
and capturing market share from your competition.

Christopher M. Webb brings over 15 years of marketing experience through multichannel
development to the private EMS industry. He is the Vice President of MiK
Market Systems
, the creator of EmergiTrack, and the author of “Marketing 911” ISBN
978-1-4507-9243-1. He can be reached at c.webb@mikmarket.com.




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