My first job in organizational development was in healthcare. More than two decades later (I can’t possibly be that old), I appear to have come full-circle as I do a great deal of consulting and training on elevating the patient-experience. This work is largely the result of my involvement with UCLA Health Systems and an upcoming book that I’ve written about their amazing journey to increase patient-centric care.
As I work in healthcare environments, I hear a number of arguments that suggest the patient experience is less important than customer experiences are in non-healthcare settings. John Goodman, BS, MBA vice chairman and Dianne Ward, BS, MA senior account manager for TARP Worldwide, writing in Patient Safety and Quality Healthcare explain the distinctions commonly cited between healthcare and non-healthcare sectors:
“Most industries have readily accepted that improved customer service will lead to increased customer loyalty, increased revenue, and an enhanced bottom line. However, the healthcare industry has lagged in accepting this concept for several reasons:
Customers are not loyal in the traditional sense because they usually wish to avoid using the healthcare system, except when necessary, and most executives believe they go to the health facility to which their physician sends them.
Most customers are insulated from price due to health insurance, and often fail to care about cost, only wanting the best, newest procedures.
Clinical care is often viewed by physicians as completely separate from traditional customer or administrative service (which is viewed as the admissions, billing, and “hotel” aspects of a medical encounter).
Clinicians believe great medicine will gain forgiveness for poor service (reinforced by television shows such as House).”
Goodman and Ward go on to disapprove all of these alleged differences by analyzing TARP Worldwide’s research regarding healthcare delivery. Most notable among these findings are conclusions that the patient experience delivered by physicians is as important as the experience offered by other staff when it comes to determining patient loyalty. Word of mouth reports of patients about their healthcare experiences has as much impact on potential patients as it does on physicians who make the referrals. In fact, TARP Worldwide research shows that referring physicians were greatly influenced by the reports of their patients regarding the way they were treated at referral facilities. In essence, referring physicians had more patient loyalty than loyalty on behalf of physicians to whom they make referrals.
Hopefully, I have gained a little wisdom along with all the frequent flyer miles I have racked up since I started working in healthcare. Over the years, I have come to appreciate that every business sector has different customer experience challenges, and each individual company has it’s own unique needs – so no one is exempt from considering the experience of customers.
In fact recent studies in healthcare suggest, as is the case with businesses in non-healthcare sectors, more than 40 percent of consumers already research healthcare services online and 60% report using the information they gain from that research to make a decision on a healthcare provider. Twitter, Facebook, and consumer review websites increasingly present healthcare tweets, posts, and customer opinions that are considered by prospective patients.
So what are customers tweeting about the experience in your business? What are they telling the people who referred them to you? What value added services are you providing to those who send business your way?
Laws of gravity and customer loyalty apply to all of us – your success can’t go up if a stronger negative force of your customer experience is pulling you down!