As a medical professional, it can be easy to focus on the medical and forget about the customer aspects of patient customer service. Add to that rising patient volumes and limited resources, and patient customer services can fall right to the bottom of your to-do list. Unfortunately, the impact of poor customer service in healthcare is much higher than you realise.
What is customer service?
Customer service is the interactions with customers, in this case, patients, before, during, and after a purchase. This can include answering questions, booking appointments, showing them how to use a product, and solving problems. The level of customer service can greatly impact a patient’s experience with a healthcare organisation.
Let’s take a closer look at customer service in numbers
A HubSpot study conducted on customer experience in 2022 showed the following:
- 90% of US citizens rely on customer service before doing business with a company.
- 58% of Americans will change to a different service provider due to poor service.
- 78% will continue to do business after a mistake if customer service is good.
- 93% of customers will return to a business if the customer service is great.
- 94% of Americans will recommend a company with very good customer service.
- 65% of Americans said they’d pay 5% more if great customer service were guaranteed.
Why is patient customer service important to healthcare companies?
Customer service in healthcare, ranging from pain management to health and wellness centres and everything in between, plays a vital role in the overall patient experience. Good customer service can help patients feel more comfortable and confident in their care, build trust between patients and healthcare providers, and reduce stress. Remember, the patient’s journey starts from the first interaction (your website, an advert, or referral) to after they’ve concluded their appointment.
What patients expect from medical customer service.
It’s no secret that patients want a better experience when they visit the doctor. They want to be seen as soon as possible, have their questions answered promptly, and feel like their concerns are being heard. You should consider:
Regardless of the industry, people want to be treated with respect and kindness. But as a medical provider, remember that your ‘customer’ is most likely there because something is wrong. People’s focus tends to be diverted when dealing with heightened emotions such as fear or anxiety. Thus, responding to them calmly and friendly will make them more at ease and defuse the situation.
It’s very easy to feel disrespected when your time is wasted, leading to frustration. Wherever possible, keep to the scheduled times and respond to queries and complaints as quickly as possible.
Also, reply to all the online comments on your Google Business profile, social media platforms, and customer review sites. Rather ask than assume if you need clarification on anything said – it’s better to take slightly longer and answer correctly than to answer wrong.
You can also use the data from your patients’ messages to identify “problem” areas within your business.
How to improve medical customer service?
There are whole libraries full of tips and strategies to improve patient customer service, but here’s a list of five of the simplest actions to take. Please note that simple does not mean easy. It will take time and dedication, but it will be worth it in the end.
1. Improve communication
It’s no secret that effective communication is one of the most important elements of good customer service. This step can take several forms.
Firstly, use clear and concise language. Avoid industry jargon or complex words and phrases that the patient may not understand. Keep your explanations simple and easy to follow so that there’s no room for misunderstanding.
Secondly, look at ways you can improve your practice’s communication. Do you send reminder messages before appointments? What do your follow-up and aftercare look like? Send a notice when your patient is due for another check-up. If you have a bot on your site, is it helpful?
2. Listen actively
Listen attentively and without interruption. This may seem like common sense, but it’s often harder than it sounds. In our fast-paced world, it can be tempting to multi-task or half-listen while someone speaks to us or listen only to respond. However, this will only lead to miscommunication and frustration on both sides.
3. Find training
Sometimes, the quickest fix can be asking an expert for guidance and sharing that with your staff. It will save you a lot of trial and error trying to figure out the hows and whats of patient customer service.
4. Outsource and automate
You don’t have to do everything yourself. Like there are experts for each part of the body, there are specialists to help you with your patient journey. And more than just specialists, some have also built relationship management software, automating certain actions, saving you time and frustration while delivering quality customer service.
5. Take a breath
Working with people is no easy feat, especially when powerful emotions are factored in. Always remember, as difficult as a patient and their loved ones can be, don’t react to their emotions. Being reactive will only cost you in the long run. So, before you respond to a difficult situation, take a slow breath.
By following these tips, you can improve the patient experience at your practice, leading to happier patients and more business for your practice in the long run.