A visit to the Parkway diner. Part two: Is your product more important than your service?

By Brad Dodge on August 23rd, 2010

A few weeks ago, I wrote about one of my healthcare IT life lessons that happened while I was eating breakfast one day in 1985 at the Parkway Diner in Worcester, Massachusetts. There’s nothing more important to a salesperson in the healthcare industry than understanding the importance of a sold value proposition.During this recent visit back to Worcester, I had the opportunity to spend some time with John Evangelista, the owner of the Parkway. He’s been the sole proprietor of the fine iconic establishment for more than 40 years, and now he’s retired and training his grandchildren to keep the momentum going and the brand alive.

The products at the Parkway are still exactly the same as they were 25 years ago. Killer eggs, unbelievable Italian toast, muffins to die for and coffee in very solid diner mugs. How can a place survive without having evolved the products over the years? Aren’t the newest competitors eating his lunch? Apparently not.I believe it’s because of the engaging, personalized service that John and his staff deliver. You know exactly what you’re going to get, and you’ll also get personal attention from the owner. John realized early on that HE was creating the environment of trust, comfort, dependability, and that as long as his products didn’t drop the ball, he’d continue to grow the business.How is is a diner like a healthcare technology or a life science company? It all comes down to products and service. Healthcare technology and life science companies are too often obsessed with the products, and the service doesn’t get the same attention. Clearly, products are important, and with technology evolving at the speed which it is, companies can’t take their eyes off the products. Chuck Dennis writes in his blog, “businesses are in love with their products.” But we as marketers need to make sure we’re giving service the highest priority. Now, if you have no need to differentiate your company from your competitor, maybe you don’t need to have great service (see AT&T!).The thing about good service is not only that it can differentiate you from your competitors, but more importantly, good service can establish the trust your company needs for ongoing, future business. Here are seven ways to build trust, and if we healthcare marketers can extend the B2C into B2B as well, we can get some solid ideas on building trust in our own businesses.Products are important. Service trumps ‘em all. (Anybody need a new tag line?)