Jobs Applied: “Don’t be a Slave to Focus Groups”


Steve Jobs was famous for the strange duality of his relationship with his customers.  From one perspective, he cared very deeply about the customer’s experience.  However, he thought that this was different than asking them what they wanted.  He is quoted as saying to his design team:

“Customers don’t know what they want until we’ve shown them”  – Steve Jobs

This lesson from Steve Jobs has been much on my mind lately.  In Nov 2013, Larry Benz and I presented the results of a university led, privately funded research project into ‘what patient’s really want’.  The service features that this study delivered as being the most important included these as the top 3: ‘The therapist is very knowledgeable’, ‘The instructions were very clear’ and ‘appointments are on time, with a minimum wait to see a therapist’.  Watch for a webinar coming soon where Larry and I will present the full findings of this study.

While presenting and then discussing this topic over the past several months, this leadership lesson has come to mind frequently.  Giving the patient these features they tell us they desire is a worthwhile exercise and I think the foundation of an excellent service strategy.11268773_m

That said – what if we could figure out what the patient craves, but can’t tell us?  Here are a few things I think might make a big difference but would be difficult to pull out of patients in a focus group:

  • A warm voice on the telephone when answering the first phone call.
  • Staff members that remember the patient’s name.
  • Therapists that notice when a patient doesn’t make it and are concerned instead of irritated.
  • Therapists that listen more than they talk.
  • Employees that enjoy each other and the patients.
  • A ‘positive vibe’.

Perhaps for Steve Jobs not being a slave to focus groups was about innovation and giving customers a computer they never knew was possible.  For physical therapy practices I think it is about that indefinable feeling that only exists in a practice where the staff is highly engaged in the business of creating powerful, healing connections with patients.  Our healthcare system is so broken that the patient’s don’t remember to include ’the therapist cares about me’ as their first priority.  Perhaps we can make sure that we deliver it anyway.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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