ZocDoc’s Company Culture – What’s Been Your Experience?

Company culture has been in the tech news lately after this lengthy article looking at Amazon’s company culture. However, in the healthcare IT world, I was more interested in this recent article by Business Insider looking at ZocDoc’s company culture. The article paints a brutal picture of a “frat house” mentality together with sexism and drugs. Not a pretty picture and it pains me to even read stories like this. However, this part of the article really stuck out for me:

On the sales floor at ZocDoc, employees say there’s a phrase used over and over again: “churn and burn.” Former employees say this phrase indicates the competitive, often stressful nature of work in ZocDoc’s sales division.

“They are full steam ahead,” one former salesperson told Business Insider. “They have this arrogance in the company where the human capital is of zero value.”

A former employee at ZocDoc told Business Insider that employee turnover at the company is high. The company recruits and brings in batches of new employees regularly because so many end up leaving or quitting, the employee alleges.

I definitely know very little about ZocDoc’s company culture. I do know that they raised a lot of money, very quickly. That puts a lot of pressure on your company. First, you have to hire a lot of people over a very short period of time. That doesn’t leave much time to develop a quality company culture. Second, when you raise that much money, you face enormous pressure to scale the company and deliver results. That’s not an excuse for bad behavior (assuming the Business Insider report is accurate), but it could explain how their company culture got out of control.

Company culture aside, their description of their sales organization mimics what I’ve heard from a number of doctors about ZocDoc. I’ve only ever met one doctor who liked ZocDoc. That doctor felt that he got patients he wouldn’t have otherwise gotten and so it was worth it. Every other doctor I’ve talked to said that ZocDoc charged way too much for new patient referrals and so they didn’t use them.

Outside of doctors’ views on ZocDoc’s pricing model, some doctors told me how aggressive the ZocDoc sales people were with them. They’d tell me about being contacted all the time by their sales people. I remember one practice manager telling me that they would never do business with ZocDoc since they hated their sales approach. The practice manager didn’t talk about the ZocDoc product or service at all. The sales person had ruined ZocDoc with that practice.

After hearing so many practices talk about ZocDoc over the years, it resonated with me when the former salesperson described the “arrogance in the company.” That’s the impression I’d been given by the many practices I’d talk to myself. I’m sure the $97.9 million they’d raised in funding (and reports said they’re raising another $152 million) helped perpetuate that culture.

What’s been your experience working with ZocDoc? I’d love to hear from more doctors and practice managers.

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference, EXPO.health, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.


  • I believe Zocdoc has a wall street background and flavor. The sales culture reminds me of investment banking sales culture of burn/churn.

    Interestingly, with more patient portals with built-in appointment setting capability, practices can provide these services from their own site.

  • “First, you have to hire a lot of people over a very short period of time. That doesn’t leave much time to develop a quality company culture. Second, when you raise that much money, you face enormous pressure to scale the company and deliver results. ”

    One problem with this sophomore thesis: ZocDoc’s been around for YEARS. And haven’t really done that much.

    Go get their metrics on the numbers of MDs they’ve signed up, their retention rates, usage, etc. over that span. Unimpressive, to put it mildly.

    Their investors have been hosed. But they seem to be enjoying it, so that’s ok, I guess.

  • Chandresh,
    They were started in NYC, so they probably stole some of those practices.

    They’ve been around for years, but they raised most of the money in the last 5 years I believe which is not long for how fast they grew headcount. A discussion on the quality of their investment, their revenue growth, etc would be very different topics. There’s a reason they had to raise so much money.

    Yes, that article links to the same article as me. The sexist culture was in their sales department it seems. I think many health IT companies could look in the mirror though and improve this as well.

  • John,
    I do not think that a company can see culture as an aspect that can be improved in time; in my humble opinion, the culture of a startup replicates the culture of the founding team right from employee +1. The whole hire well/fire well policy is intended to allow quick scalability without altering the initial culture seed.
    See the comment of the Starbucks founder Howard Schultz in this regards:“Early on I realized that I had to hire people smarter and more qualified than I was in a number of different fields, and I had to let go of a lot of decision-making. I can’t tell you how hard that is. But if you’ve imprinted your values on the people around you, you can dare to trust them to make the right moves.”

    Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/howard-schultz-quotes-2012-11#ixzz3jB8WCm8z

  • I work at ZocDoc and have worked at all levels of the sales team from entry on up. I will be the first to tell you that the company policies can be a bit brutal when it comes to quota. I think that ZocDoc got unfairly singled out in the sexual harassment issue. That’s something you’ll run into in every single workplace. I’m not condoning it, I’m just saying ZocDoc is 1 of millions. And they have cleaned house and taken a strict policy on it after the articles came out.

    The sad part is everyone thinks about ZocDoc as a referral source. First and foremost it is just a platform for patients to book appointments online with doctors and dentists. Here’s why its better than everything else.

    -7 million patient network nationwide
    -Streamlined processes developed over 7 years of business
    -Multiple specialties all booking in one place – read: cross-referrals

    What doctors don’t seem to realize is ZocDoc is not a service for doctors. It is a service for patients. Once all the patients are utilizing ZocDoc, practices won’t have a choice but to use it. It may not be today, or even 5 years from now, but one day ZocDoc will be a force in the healthcare industry that doctors won’t be able to ignore “just on principle.”

    But don’t get me wrong – I hate my company just as much as these bitter commentors sometimes. THAT’S LIFE.

  • @AFGR

    I love how companies “clean house” and make “policy” AFTER they get caught and publicly shamed. Doesn’t say much for the character of company leadership does it? I wonder if they’d change if they had not been called out?

    And “bitter commentors?” Hahaha… As a “commentor” I take some offense at your statement but will just chalk it up to the fantasy of a PR damage control person out trying to clean up the ZocDoc name…

  • Anonymous,
    Thanks for coming and sharing your perspective as a worker at ZocDoc. I can’t agree with you that the sexual harassment issue is at “every single workplace.” It’s true that ZocDoc is not alone in the sexual harassment area, but it’s definitely not present everywhere. They just got caught and pointed out publicly.

    While you say that ZocDoc is a service for patients, ZocDoc charges doctors. So, it’s a service for doctors as well. If the financials don’t make sense for doctors to use it, they won’t.

    It’s an interesting argument about it becoming the defacto platform for patients to schedule appointments for doctors. It’s possible they’ll reach that place, but 7 million patients of the 300 million patients in the US is still very small. Plus, the 7 million is likely an inflated number since many of those 7 million were one and done appointment schedulers. Plus, many of those 7 million patients are scheduling outside of ZocDoc as well.

    My point isn’t that ZocDoc hasn’t built something of value. They have (a good return for investors is another question). However, they’re a long way from your vision of being so large that doctors have to deal with them “just on principle.”

    The real trend we should watch with ZocDoc is how many of the large integrated health systems are using ZocDoc. Looking at consolidation, these integrated health systems can provide the same user experience as ZocDoc and many of them own their local markets. I’ll be interested to see how ZocDoc does with these large systems.

    Your last comment makes me sad. If you hate your company, find a new one. Life isn’t always working for a company you hate.

  • I’m not sure where to start. I suppose a good first comment is that there are three different conversations here.

    1. Workplace issues at ZocDoc
    2. Quality of the ZocDoc service
    3. Why Many Doctors dislike the ZocDoc “approach”

    Part 1 – Workplace issues/article

    In My opinion, as an employee, I fundamentally reject that there is an open environment of intimidation of any kind. Nor open drug use. I am on the sales floor. The “frathouse” culture is a very lazy label and status-quo buzzword that average journalists use for all start -ups that have casual dress, ping-pong tables, and a weekly happy hour. Frat houses usually do in fact have casual dress, games, and alcohol, so I could see how some older “stiffs” or younger socially inept people could get confused. I was not in a frat, so don’t go there. Just because some people go to the bar after work and hook-up does not make a workplace a “frathouse.” If you think that you should get out more.

    To be clear, I have not seen any sexual harassment or drug use that is openly tolerated. I have been at ZocDoc less than a year. While it is possible years ago people were running around naked and doing coke off the desks, this is not what I have seen.

    I would imagine that EVERY company has a few bad-eggs. In 2015 it is near-impossible to get away with any shenanigan at any major organization (indefinitely). People are put to shame when they get caught. Just look at Jared Fogle. Would you jerk-offs say that “Subway Tolerates Child Molestation?” I hope not. Italian BMT is a personal fav  I also happen to think the “business Insider” piece was very poorly written and uninformative. It closely mirrored a similar article from a few years back in which there was apparently a legit case. Either way, new employees take a “sexual harassment” training course and there are mechanisms in place to report such behavior if it happens. Enough about that.

    Part 2- Quality of the ZocDoc service

    I disagree with the other ZocDoc employee that ZocDoc is just for patients. Just like Expedia is for passengers and airlines, ZocDoc is for patients and Doctors. I do agree with him that one day Doctors will be forced to get their “head out of the sand” as new patients will be siphoned away from them unless they get ZocDoc. That is, the ones that don’t first get Gobbled up by hospitals and major health groups. There are very smart people at Founders Fund who invested 130 million because they believe ZocDoc eventually will acquire those “other 300 million” people that someone referenced in a previous post. And the rest of the world. Oh yea, people like Peter Thiele and Jeff Bezos were original investors. Morons. Think about how many people used Facebook before YOU did. Fucking. Morons.

    While it is possible this investment could turn to zero with a ZocDoc collapse, I do not believe this will happen as user-growth is growing like wildfire. When is the last time you called to book a plane ticket? The service is phenomenal and does somethings Doctors can’t do. In fact, google “Aetna ZocDoc” and you will see Aetna tried to buy ZocDoc in 2013 for 300 million. WHY? Because ZocDoc will eventually replace insurance carrier websites, and already is. Google your zip code, insurance carrier, and Dentist and see what pops up.

    What is a phenomenal product you ask? One that consistently drives ROI or efficiency for the end-user. ZocDoc does both. That’s a fact. If you want to know how call a ZocDoc sales guy. More broadly, let’s start with the business model. Research “hyper-local technology” and “buy buttons,” and the business models of Uber, Open-Table, Expedia, Seamless, and other “friction reducing” models which are no different than ZocDoc. By the way, all billion Dollar companies.

    The most educated comment I have seen on this forum thus far was the one about the enterprise systems using ZocDoc. They pay ZocDoc millions of Dollars. Why? Heath systems are run by business executives, not Doctors, for a reason. New patient Acquisition, patient retention, scheduling-efficiency, and Online-reputation control, seamlessly integrated with existing PMS system. All in a way that not only pays for itself, but MAKES IT RAIN to the tune of 10x to 20x ROI per Doctor. I have personally never seen a Doctor who was on ZocDoc for a year that did not at least break even, and those are in “developing” markets like Alabama. Even there most of them get positive ROI.

    It is not surprising some Doctors think $3000 is too much. I have seen Doctors who get 10+ patients a month think that ZocDoc is not worth $250 month because many are not business people and have a hard time comprehending the difference between paying a light-bill and investment that drives ROI. They are book-smart, not common-sense smart.

    Part 3 – Why Many Doctors dislike the ZocDoc “approach”

    Yea, I guess they don’t teach business 101 in Med school. MOST Doctors are not business people. That’s ok though because you save lives. If you are a Doctor and Disagree that you are not a business person, than ask yourself, why are you getting FU@#ED by insurance carriers, major health systems, the government? The only other excuse would be maybe too worried about the handful of women who worship you in your practice? I wonder what sexual harassment has happened in that environment.. Power structure of Doctor vs Office manager/medical assistant. Ha.KIDDING.

    There are business savvy-Doctors (The ones who utilize ZocDoc) and the great Doctors are that are out-of-network. The ones who are good enough that people will pay cash. Doctors that are in-network are essentially bitches of the healthcare industry. (Sorry for the misogynistic word). You know what Im not talking about and its not women!

    In all seriousness, I must sadly admit that many Doctors are correct in hating the “approach” Of ZocDoc sales team. There is a fundamental problem with the Sales team, specific to the reps that reach out to Private Practices. There is no process. The trainers are well-meaning but ineffective. Leadership in sales might be great consultants but they are terrible salespeople. The job of a salesperson is to inform and educate and guide, not harass and mindlessly dial. In 2015 you need to be better than that, especially with a complex product and VERY complex customer. The Sales team is an embarrassment in proportion to how great the product is.

    Hopefully the organization can fix this in time. Most of the good salespeople keep to themselves and recognize they can do nothing. Like all sales there is a “quota” however the “human capital of zero” comment was one of the few from “business Insider” that resonated with me. While I have been treated well, I also have seen great people that tried hard axed without given much guidance.

    Conclusion – While I have cracked some jokes, I truly sympathize with Doctors and think they are widely misunderstood (ironically, just like ZocDoc) for several reasons:

    1. They have a lot of pressure on them and very little time
    2. They are getting screwed by insurance carriers, major health systems, and are under-appreciated by patients. They are often held liable for the ignorance of patients and the manipulative nature of corporations.
    3. Patients are distracted and use web-md to second guess them and compile 10 years of school into a smart phone app (no wonder they hate technology)
    4. They are probably the most “oversold” profession and harrassed by shitty salespeople often.
    5. They are also surrounded by an army of staff that worship the ground they walk on and save lives while treating patients like dirt (I am not positive but I would probably also do this if I was a Doctor, given the hamster wheel of 2015 healthcare).
    5. Most were never popular growing up so when bestowed upon the “God like” power and (local) celebrity status many are simply ego-maniacs. This is even a documented problem in the medical community and I have heard medical schools are trying to combat this with special sensitivity training LMAO.
    6. Most salespeople are inadequate and come off as unhelpful, pushy and annoying. The great ones are consultative and insightful.

    I love ZocDoc. Doctors are not an easy sale to begin with and it is a true testament to how phenomenal the Product is that is still selling like wildfire to major health systems, and as “digital health heats up” I think most Doctors will come around. Because ROI. There are more Doctors than you think using it. If you are shaking your head in disbelief I suggest you think about the guy in 1896 who said “I don’t need a telephone.” Think about it for a Second.. Fucking clowns.

  • First rep here – The comments made by the 2nd rep is everything that’s wrong with our company that we are trying to eradicate from our culture.

    It is obviously a very poor salesperson that resorts to name-calling when people don’t agree with your vision. Like he said, it’s our job to educate and inspire. Sometimes it doesn’t always happen on the first meeting or even the seventh – but calling someone a moron or a clown is a poor way to make them see things your way.

    Not sure WHAT vision this other rep is buying into or following, but I apologize if any docs come across this. It’s incredibly unprofessional and not consistent with how the company operates. I promise these attitudes and thoughts that he/she is conveying are not company-inspired, but created by disgruntled salespeople who don’t know how to hear “no.”

  • Wow! This “Mr. Anon Salesman” is certainly upholding the low class, sleazy image I’ve come to associate with Zoc Doc this past week or so. If I was an exec at Zoc Doc I’d start eradicating people like him. (I assume it’s a guy based on tone of the post – and an apparently spineless guy who doesn’t have the cojones to share his real identity)

  • @Steve Sisko –

    Agree completely. Apologies about the “bitter commentators” comment, I was more referencing the ex-employees in the BI article.

    @John Lynn

    -you make some excellent points, but some of what you say can still be held for debate.

    It is quite backwards that it is a service for patients, yet doctors pay. However, it is the same as any amenity that providers add to their office to make it better for the patient. The patients also didn’t pay for the TV and fish tank in the waiting room, but they benefit from it more than the provider. If I were a provider, I would pay twice as much for a friendly receptionist because I know my patients appreciate it (plus good help is so hard to find!).

    I agree that we are a long ways away from being “the” platform for healthcare – but the needle is moving in that direction.

    As far as health systems utilizing ZocDoc, I won’t give out any hard numbers (I’m already a bit nervous posting this on public forum for fear of repercussion), but if you Google “partnered with ZocDoc,” you’ll see some major health systems posting PR articles about their new online scheduling capability such as Valley Medical Group, Einstein Healthcare Network, Erlanger, and others.

    And that’s just in the last year!

  • Thanks for sharing the views from the inside. I think you shared a lot of interesting takes on the ZocDoc view of the world and the view of some of its employees.

    I still think they fall into the classic startup distorted reality (to reference Steve Jobs) where investors expect it to be the dominant player, but that doesn’t mean it will always be the case. There’s still a long battle to be fought to make it there. Plus, medicine is one of the most fragmented industries that exists (might be the most fragmented). So, it’s hard to win the hearts and minds of so many independents.

    It’s ridiculous to say that ZocDoc hasn’t created value. Of course, they’ve created value. The question is how much value and will it provide oversized returns to their investors? The investors and the founders have to sell the vision of what the ZocDoc employees above have described, because they have to go big. There’s no middle ground for ZocDoc now that they’ve raised so much money. Of course, I’m guessing with that much money, the founders have done a DST round of funding and are financially set already. It’s the rest of the employees that dream of a big IPO that will lose out if the vision isn’t achieved.

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