Healthcare providers that have a retail gift store on their medical campus most likely manage with limited access to dedicated resources and frequently leverage volunteers to serve in their gift shops, assist customers with merchandise questions and support, and complete sales transactions. The thought of expanding operations to offer both a retail store and an online hospital gift shop website can be a daunting step, especially with limited dedicated resource and dependence on volunteer staff to manage day to day operations.
However, online gift stores offer any family members and friends unable to visit loved ones during their hospital stay a method of sending a gift to brighten a patient’s day in their absence of visitation. It can, therefore, increase satisfaction for both patients and their families and friends who use the online service as well as increase revenue from the gift store.
Launching and managing an e-commerce website for your hospital gift store is not an easy task but there are many services available that can simplify the process and ensure it’s a success whilst working with a minimal team with limited resources at your disposal. There are a few critical things to consider that can quickly become large problems and ultimately set the foundation of every successful online hospital gift store.
Comprehensive Delivery Policy
Make sure your organization has thought through how it intends to handle the delivery of online orders. The online gift store website will need to reference the delivery policy so there are clear expectations set for users of the website hoping to place an order. Clearly stating hospital room delivery only is accepted and when orders need to be placed by for same-day delivery can reduce any friction points in the experience and ensure the telephone customer service line is not inundated with calls. You may leverage volunteers to pick and pack online orders as well as for the delivery of online orders to a patient’s hospital room so clearly highlighting if you intend to deliver by 6 pm, the delivery policy should highlight last orders of the day are accepted no later than 4 pm for same-day delivery. Some departments may not accept certain types of gifts for patients e.g. flowers, plants and balloons may not be acceptable in Intensive Care Units so these restrictions should be called out explicitly.
Shopping Cart Checkout Experience That Mirrors The Delivery Policy
Ensure the shopping cart experience mirrors the delivery policy with only a patient’s name and hospital room number being requested for the delivery details. Be sure to test every payment method you wish to accept through the shopping cart checkout experience to ensure delivery location details cannot be changed. Also, on a side note, ensure HIPAA and other legal compliance regulations are being met by not requesting or storing additional patient information and offering a secure payment method.
Offering Telephone Customer Service
For any reputable e-commerce website, consumers expect to find a telephone number should additional support be needed. An online hospital gift store website is no different – at times you need to speak to a staff member to resolve issues or ask questions. Leveraging volunteers who are already assisting in the retail gift store that are familiar with the product inventory to answer any questions can greatly help within this area. Be sure to make the telephone number visible and the hours that there’ll be service. If there’s an email address that volunteers in the gift store are able to check then consider including that too as part of the contact information to list on the online gift store website.
Quality Assurance Testing Plan
Performing quality assurance testing takes significant time in reviewing all test cases but will ensure a smooth running website and fewer issues upon launch to resolve. Be sure to dedicate resources and time to this activity rather than to rush launch. Once bugs are repaired make sure they are re-rested and pass acceptance criteria before proceeding.
Plan for upfront support from any dedicated gift store resources and volunteers to work alongside your digital, development and creative teams or consultants that can assist with the above, providing feedback, information on delivery and frequently asked questions, etc. as you prepare for launch. Post-launch, support for day to day backend operations and any updates to the site that need to be made should be planned and processes put in place to handle.
I hope the above information helps any healthcare providers who are thinking of launching an online hospital gift store website. I’d like to hear of the problems you’ve encountered while launching and managing your online hospital gift store with the limited resources.