5 Key Strategies to Improve Customer Service in Healthcare

Nov. 18, 2015

Customer service arguably is one of the most critical factors in an organization’s long-term success and even survival. Excellent customer service found in other industries has raised the bar for hospitals and the healthcare industry, so it’s imperative that they strive to meet the demands.

People are craving a different approach when it comes to healthcare, said Dr. Shelena Lalji, Founder of Dr. Shel Wellness & Medical Spa, at a recent marketing symposium. “They’re looking for the service and the attention; and they’re looking to be made feel important again.” If patients feel neglected and not respected by your staff, experts suggest healthcare organizations can expect consequences in forms of negative PR, lowered reimbursements and a tarnished reputation among their patient base.

To help mitigate these concerns, here are five key strategies from leading industry experts to help enhance the customer experience provided by your healthcare staff.

Patient Complaints & Concerns

According to Micah Solomon, customer service and patient experience consultant and a bestselling author, a key element in delivering great customer service is knowing how to apologize for any service lapses. Healthcare personnel can quickly become defensive when errors are pointed out to them. Regardless of the allocation of blame, however, it’s best to immediately take the patient’s side. Have empathy for the patient’s position and train all hospital staff to respond to these situations with compassion and professionalism. Expressing empathy during these challenging times can play a significant role in the overall satisfaction with their physician.

Effective Communication

It’s critical for clinicians to understand how to clearly and effectively communicate with their patients and sometimes their families. Much of what’s wrong in patient satisfaction and customer service is related to poor use of verbal and nonverbal language, states Solomon. Very little eye contact, for example, may appear as being uneasy and insincere and can be perceived as a deliberate intent to dominate, intimidate, belittle, or even make the other feel at a disadvantage. If a speaker actively seeks out the right amount of eye contact when talking, he or she will be judged to be more believable, confident and competent.

Employee Engagement

Bain & Company studies indicate that positive employee behavior and attitude plays a significant role in high customer satisfaction ratings. Engaged employees who are passionate about their work not only spread their enthusiasm to others, but they’re also more committed to go the extra mile for their patients. Unfortunately, according to a recent a survey, more than 60 percent of employees do not feel engaged at their jobs.

Responsiveness

Patience is a virtue that’s hard to grasp in a generation of instant gratification—where answers can be found with just a few taps on a smartphone. “[Patients] don’t like waiting too long to be briefed on test results or treatment plans, especially when their lives are being disrupted by a hospital stay,” states Jess White, a contributing editor for BusinessTech.com. Therefore, clinicians need to be as quick and direct as possible when delivering healthcare information to the patient.

Patient Outreach

Last, but definitely not least, patient follow-up plays a critical role in improving their healthcare experience. “The first and last moments of a customer interaction are what a customer is likely to hold in memory as the permanent ‘snapshot’ that encompasses the whole event,” states Soloman. Follow-up phone calls, emails and even text messages to check on patients’ recovery will not only help lower the rate of readmissions, but it will also leave a positive, lasting impression that will benefit you and your organization as a whole.

“Really listen and give them the customer service they are craving and they will be your loyal clients and patients forever,” says Dr. Shel. What are your thoughts? How do you manage your team and how customer service is delivered to your patients?

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