The customer should always feel they have the full support of the company or organisation that they are supporting. Not only do customers expect companies to give them a high-quality product or service, but customers have the power to instantly boost or destroy a company’s reputation via social media because of a customer service issue...regardless of who was actually at fault. And as a result, strong customer service has become crucial in the role of every business.
And while the occasional bad experience may not force a customer to record a poor review or worse, to cease being a customer, particularly in the healthcare industry, the best way to avoid this risk is to prevent it happening to begin with.
Here are a number of reasons why great customer service is imperative in the healthcare industry and a few basic lessons that can be taken on board to help avoid customer concerns.
The Internet is a patient’s best friend and a practice’s worst nightmare.
Review sites abound in every industry and increasingly, these sites are becoming more and more specific about the benefits/issues in a given practice. Potential patients may not dig into the health specific sites however they will come across general review sites such as Google and increasingly (and weirdly...) Yelp. What is the clinic's Google rating? At the same time, social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and even Instagram have become digital windows where your patients will shout both your praises and your deficiencies.
Ignoring patient feedback or indeed not keeping your social media presence relevant to readers telegraphs that you don’t care about their views or are not totally up to date as a practice, whether or not this is true.
Patients are customers/consumers.
Healthcare customer service differs from other industries. Healthcare “customers” are patients. Aside from elective procedures, they typically do not want to be in any healthcare situation. Even when not in the middle of a pandemic, going to the doctor or a hospital can be a scary and confusing experience.
By identifying potential sources of discomfort, and having a well thought-out customer service plan, a practice or hospital can set themselves up for the best possible patient experience. Think about how many experiences are opportunities to either impress a patient or chase them away:
- First point of contact with scheduling staff
- Office staff
- Waiting room experience
- Wait time past the scheduled appointment time
- Check in procedure with nurse or medical assistant/vitals
- Actual visit with the doctors and nurses
Every person and procedure in your practice plays a role in making the patient feel comfortable and at ease. And there are some interesting lessons that we should take on board to ensure comfort levels are maintained as high as possible. More on that in a later post.
With the current global pandemic situation, customer service plans are even more important, particularly in regards to patient arrival.
Make sure you let your patients know about your safety protocols ahead of time and clearly define what they must do. What may be obvious to you because of your job is not obvious to patients. All your staff must understand this. And with the changing requirements that come with the ebb and flow of the virus, you'll need to have a system in place that allows you to quickly and easily convey changing instructions. A flexible, easy to use knowledge platform such as Intuto can be an ideal way to achieve this. And of course patient check-in instructions must be presented in a clear, step-by-step manner. Patients are concerned enough about a visit to a medical centre. They need as little additional distraction as possible. Here again, a platform like Intuto can be used to share instructions electronically with patients. Interactive materials on Intuto can reinforce the needs of the practice and really help make the patient experience a positive one. Ultimately, medical centre staff training is vital.
Your patients have an opinion
While many practice managers may feel that patient satisfaction surveys in the case of regular visits or in the case of major procedures, exit interviews, are a little 'commercial', these are a wonderful tool for a practice to understand where they excelled or where they could do better. A simple form at the redemption desk may suffice although patients may feel a little daunted about filling it out in front of staff, particularly if the feedback is a little negative.
Perhaps better is to make use of one of a number of options to create an online questionnaire. East to set up and importantly to be able to consolidate the answers so that you as practice manager can clearly see trends.
Be prepared to change the questions over time to let you cover the core competencies of the clinic (waiting room, cleanliness, the procedure, communication and so on) without the questionnaire becoming too unwieldy. Real, timely feedback from patients will help the entire clinic ensure that excellent patient service is second nature.
The patient experience does not start or end at the doctor’s physical office. Perception is built by gathering information from multiple channels, whether it is through review sites, internal discussion or surveys. The importance of understanding the way customers perceive you should never be underestimated when building patient relationships and expanding customer numbers.