Healthcare News & Insights

Keys to improving the customer-service experience at your hospital

Many hospital execs may not devote much thought to the customer service aspect of health care. But as patient satisfaction scores are given more weight in reimbursement, leaving a good impression on patients and their families is important.

177711094In an article from Forbes magazine, customer service consultant Micah Solomon draws parallels between patients’ experiences as consumers in other industries with health care.

With the rise of the Internet and social media, today’s customers are more savvy with all their purchases – and have higher expectations. Health care is no different, and if patients aren’t happy with the level of customer service they receive from hospital staff, they won’t be quiet about it.

Excellent customer service found in other industries has raised the bar for hospitals, Solomon said, so they must strive to meet the demands. Otherwise, they’ll experience consequences in the forms of negative PR, lowered reimbursement and a tarnished reputation among their patient base.

Here are some tactics Solomon suggests to enhance the customer service your hospital provides.

Make the best impression

Just as with most customer-service interactions, the first impression a patient gets of your hospital makes a big difference. The last interaction is significant as well. Both create what Solomon called a “snapshot” of the hospital experience for the patient.

To that end, attention must be given to the details that shape these impressions in patients’ minds, from reminding front-desk staff to be cheery and polite at all times to making sure patients can easily navigate the hospital.

And follow-up phone calls to check on patients’ recovery can make their last impression of your hospital a good one, while decreasing their chances of experiencing complications that may cause readmission – a win-win for both sides.

Provide info quickly

It’s also crucial to be transparent with patients about their conditions from the start.

Advances in technology mean that patients are used to having info at their fingertips, fast. They don’t like waiting too long to be briefed on test results or treatment plans, especially when their lives are already being disrupted by a hospital stay. So your clinicians should be as quick and direct as possible when delivering important info about patient care.

Admit when something goes wrong

Another key element of delivering good customer service is knowing when to apologize for any lapses. Healthcare personnel tend to become defensive when errors are pointed out to them, Solomon said.

Even if it’s something small, like a patient not being greeted politely at check-in, staff should take responsibility and offer an apology for the issue.

It’s best to take the patient’s side in these types of customer-service disputes. Have empathy for the patient’s position, and train all hospital staff to respond to these situations with courtesy and grace.

Give staff a purpose

The most important aspect of creating a healthcare team that’s customer-service focused is to differentiate between an employee’s “purpose” and the person’s “function,” according to Solomon.

Each staffer’s purpose is deeper than the day-to-day functions required of their jobs, and it ties into the hospital’s whole overarching goal to achieve the best outcomes for patients by treating them as well as possible. If giving high-quality customer service to a patient means that an employee’s function must be temporarily postponed, it should be done. And staff should be rewarded for going that extra mile instead of scolded for not completing their day-to-day duties right away.

Improvements like these can go a long way in improving your patient’s customer service experience and making your hospital look more favorable in their eyes.

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