Healthcare provider Simplyhealth announced that it was closing up its operations this month, after facing the “almost impossible” task of generating enough turn over to stay in business. The group claims that there has been a “real shift in the requirements of customers” and that online retailers are applying pressure to existing companies, by providing more choice and lower prices than their brick and mortar peers. But is that true?
We disagree that online companies offer more choice – certainly, in the case of Shire Mobility, our relationships with the biggest providers of mobility aids on the market means we can access almost anything our customers need. We also don’t think lower prices online are a threat to physical retailers. Products like scooters and wheelchairs should be prescribed, tested by the customer, and sold by someone who knows them well. This is an experience that simply cannot be replicated online, and it is one that the vast majority of our customers are actively looking for.
So why did Simplyhealth fail? Perhaps a better question is: why should we assume that it would succeed? Ultimately, no one “deserves” to succeed in a free market – your business thrives if what you offer is distinct from your competitors, of a higher quality, and more appealing. In any type of retail, this means things like better choice, lower prices, a great reputation, and an enjoyable experience. In the healthcare market, these factors co-exist with those of care and expertise, which are most important.
At Shire Mobility, we put care and expertise on a pedestal. We pride ourselves on the levels of service we provide, and constantly strive to outdo ourselves. It’s working very well for us – but more importantly, it’s working very well for our customers.
Simplyhealth’s chief executive, Romana Abdin, said that the closure was a “very difficult decision to make,” and explained: “it has become clear that physical shops are not a viable way forward for Simplyhealth.” But it is worth asking whether this is really the fault of online retailers. If Shire Mobility, as well as other companies, can continue to deliver a great service to customers and remain successful, isn’t it more likely that Simplyhealth had the wrong priorities?
We believe that care and expertise come first – and any healthcare provider who successful delivers them can remain competitive and successful in today’s marketplace. Or, as the old adage goes: “it’s not what you do, it’s the way that you do it.”