Healthcare News & Insights

Health care: Managing the customer experience

Do you know what consumers say dictates a positive or negative customer experience when it comes to interacting with a hospital, a doctor’s office or other healthcare provider? How about what would cause one-third of consumers to switch their health insurance or healthcare provider?

It’s staff friendliness and attitude.

According to a report by Health  Research Institute (HRI) of PwC US, the healthcare industry is significantly behind other industries when it comes to responding to the wants, needs and preferences of consumers.

And it’s important to respond to these needs because healthcare consumers are nearly twice as likely as those in the airline, hotel and banking industries to say staff friendliness and attitude dictate a positive or negative experience. Also, one-third of healthcare consumers in the study said they’d switch providers for a more ideal experience.

 Gain better understanding healthcare consumers

PwC analyzed data from its unique Customer Experience Radar, a national survey of 6,000 consumers across nearly a dozen industries, to gain a better understanding of consumer expectations. HRI compared findings across banking, hospitality, airline and retail sectors to experiences and attitudes in the healthcare industry.

What HRI found was that in many respects consumer expectations in healthcare track closely with other industries. For instance, consumers placed convenience and speed high on their list whether purchasing clothing or choosing a doctor.

However, they also differ in several key areas. For example, healthcare consumers are less likely to report a positive experiences, which isn’t a good thing when you think about the best marketing is free marketing — word of mouth.

“The voice of the customer may be the best kept secret in healthcare, but that’s changing as consumers exert greater control over how their healthcare dollars are spent and exercise power to vote with their feet and wallets,” Kelly Barnes, leader of the U.S. Health Industries, PwC, said in a news release.  “Hospitals and insurers are competing for loyal customers served by new care and coverage models in a more retail-oriented health market.”

Customer experience in healthcare

Here are a few more key findings from HRI’s Customer experience in healthcare: The moment of truth:

  • Healthcare consumers are least likely to share a positive story. Only 44% of health insurance customers and 54% of provider consumers actually tell anyone within a month of having a positive experience compared to 70% of retail and 66% of banking customers.
  • They also are less forgiving of providers with whom they have had a negative experience. Six out of 10 negative experiences are more likely to be remembered for longer in the provider industry compared to other industries.
  • 88% of consumers surveyed said they would be willing to return to a retailer that apologized after a bad experience, while two-thirds of disappointed health insurance consumers were willing to forgive and forget if their frustrations were acknowledged.
  • Staff attitude was cited as the main contributor to positive moments of truth by 70% of consumers in the provider sector, compared to 38% of retail shoppers and 33% of bank, hospital and airline customers.
  • Price and convenience ranked high on a list of attributes consumers expect across multiple industries, with price being the No. 1 driver of purchasing decisions for consumers in every industry, except healthcare provider.
  • Personal experience is the top reason for choosing a doctor or hospital, and it’s more than two and a half times more important than to consumers in other industries.

Valued conveniences and services

When asked about the conveniences and services they value from healthcare providers:

  • 69% said they want facilities that offer multiple services in one location
  • 65% appreciate the ability to exchange information through online and mobile channels of communication, and
  • 57% place a high value on patient education they receive during a visit.

Not far behind, 53% of consumers place a high degree of value on the cafeteria and access to WiFi and other entertainment.

So if you aren’t currently surveying your patients and their families, it’s time to start. Offering customers forums where they can provide feedback will only aid your hospital in proactively monitoring and managing your customers’ experiences.

And as incentive payments become linked to patient satisfaction scores, customer experience will become even more important to the survival of your facility.


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