Consumers today can order a gallon of milk on their phones before the refrigerator door slams shut. We can feast on unlimited music or movie streaming for less than it costs to buy enough milk for a family of four for a month. We’re living in the “golden age of convenience,” says Wired magazine. To keep up with the times, healthcare organizations need to take the same approach to the patient-provider communication loop.
The US healthcare has historically set a high bar for clinical care, but it leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to service and the consumer experience. How? Just ask patients. In a July 2018 study, McKinsey & Company offered a blunt assessment of the industry, concluding that “consumers want more from the healthcare industry.” And they’re putting the patient experience near the top of their wish list.
“When survey respondents were asked what would make a healthcare company ‘the best,’ coverage was ranked as most important (23 percent), followed by customer service (11 percent), cost (7 percent), and access (6 percent),” the study’s authors wrote. “Such basic ‘asks’ would be unheard of in most industries.”
Patient engagement in service recovery
Well-established consumer brands have facilitated direct conversations with their target market for years. The healthcare industry should be engaging with patients directly as well. To bridge the disconnect in patient-provider communication, it’s essential to speak to your consumers in a similar way to industries like travel and retail. In fact, many leading hospital executives are looking beyond healthcare for inspiration on how to build trust with patients and inspire brand loyalty.
One such strategy is service recovery. Pioneered by the travel and tourism industry decades ago, this practice means stepping in to address an issue or concern in real time. Often, patients and their families who are encountering a stressful healthcare situation simply want to be heard. Service recovery is a way for providers to directly communicate with them while attempting to meet their expectations.
Still, many providers don’t know where to start. They either lack the ability to identify customer service needs, or they don’t have the proper mechanisms in place to take corrective actions ASAP. It could even be both. In either case, here’s how providers can start the service recovery feedback loop:
- Set a goal: What is your organization trying to achieve? Is it about getting higher volume or better customer satisfaction scores? Identifying the goal will help your team pick the right technology tools or manual processes for achieving the desired result.
- Pick the right tools: There’s a variety of technology applications and strategies for gathering consumer data, so it’s critical to select the right one for the specific organization.
- Commit to seeing it through: You should prioritize continuous improvement once you operationalize the service recovery process.
Part of seeing a patient engagement program through is building a best practices plan. Here are the five main pillars of service recovery, as defined by top consumer brands:
- Practice active listening: Active listening is about re-stating the patient’s statements, empathizing with the situation, and asking questions. This practice shows you’re genuinely interested in what they have to say.
- Offer a sincere apology: Explain the situation you’re sorry about, getting specific with what could have been better. That way, the patient knows you understood what made them unhappy.
- Brainstorm solutions: To turn things around for the patient, they should walk away with ways you’ll fix what they disliked about their interaction with your staff. If they leave the call knowing you have a concrete plan to change, they’re more likely to give you another chance.
- Follow through with your offer: The next time this patient comes in, they’ll expect that you take care of their issue. It’s crucial to make the change that you promised to meet that expectation.
- Keep it professional: Define the appropriate talk track to use in various situations. With the right plan, you’ll portray confidence and professionalism every step of the way.
Interested in learning more about bridging the patient-provider communication gap? Let’s talk.
Based in New York City, Quality Reviews®
, Inc., was founded by leading healthcare providers and entrepreneurs with a combined 30-plus years of clinical, healthcare administrative, and technology building experience. We build proprietary software to help healthcare provider organizations capture and analyze real-time patient feedback to facilitate service recovery.
With hospitals today operating on the narrowest of margins, losing even one patient over poor customer service is one too many. Complicating matters, most healthcare organizations still use traditional surveys to track and monitor patient satisfaction metrics, putting them at a considerable disadvantage in terms of identifying service recovery opportunities.
We make it easy for patients to provide real-time feedback — and even easier for healthcare leaders to improve service based on this feedback. Utilizing real-time feedback, our service recovery and daily performance improvement tools help shift the focus onto the patient and promote a culture of service excellence.
Want to learn more? Request a demo here