The Art of Customer Service in Healthcare

3 years ago

“The supreme art of customer service is to learn from unhappy customers and make them happy again with the same learning.”

― Parth Patel, CEO of SyS Creations 

Canada’s leading news publisher CBC News had rated the Canadian hospitals. And in Ontario alone, it rated 25+ hospitals with a C grade. 

There were many reasons for the C grade. But if we read reviews of these hospitals online, almost all patients are complaining about awful customer service. 

The question is, 

Why is healthcare struggling with customer service? 

Multiple care delivery approaches, long manual clinical cycles and poor digital healthcare solutions contribute most to bad customer service in healthcare. 

  • Let’s see an example of how long manual clinical cycles lead to poor customer service. 

The patient enters the hospital with fever and cold.  

He explains everything to the nurse. 

The nurse arranges the physician for the patient. 

Before the in-person meeting with the physician, the patient gets a pre-visit medical questionnaire. 

Here also, he fills almost everything which he has already told the nurse. 

The patient finally talks to the physician. 

The physician writes the prescription. 

The patient goes to the pharmacy. 

The patient waits until the pharmacy fills his prescription. 

And now the patient finally gets the medical drugs. 

The same cycle repeats when he is on a follow-up visit! 

In this long clinical cycle, there are many soft corners where the patient may feel he is not being treated properly. 

What if the patient does not get instant access to a physician?  

What if the patient isn’t interested in filling pre-visit medical questionnaires? 

This results in poor customer service! 

  • Let’s see another example of how poor digital solutions lead to devastating customer service. 

The digital solution is meant to enhance the customer service experience. 

But if it lacks crucial features, it can worsen the customer service. 

For instance, if a hospital is providing virtual care with a telemedicine app, but that telemedicine app does not have a feature to let patients talk easily with the customer service team, there is no good use of that digital solution

Let’s assume for a moment that the telemedicine app has the feature allowing patients to raise questions. 

But if there is no chatbot for quick resolution of basic queries, the patient has to wait hours to get an answer from the customer service executive. 

So, this way - even high investment in digital tools does not help healthcare entities to provide remarkable customer service. 

Good customer service begins with awareness!  

Ultimately, it only matters how well you understand what your patients are expecting from you. 

Because customer service for you may not be the same for your patients! 

For patient 1 - bad food on the hospital campus is poor customer service. 

For patient 2 - offline appointment booking is poor customer service. 

For patient 3 - a long wait time is poor customer service. 

So, because of this varying sense of customer service with every patient, you need to target on mass - rather than concluding with 1 or 2 patients’ requirements. 

And to find mass, you need to achieve the highest state of awareness around your clinical practice and patient requirements. 

But once you find your patients’ requirements, what’s next? 

The hybrid approach to customer service in healthcare 

In healthcare, human interaction matters the most. 

A small conversation with physicians or the healthcare team can calm the panicked patients and their family members. 

With a people-driven healthcare customer service strategy, healthcare entities ensure that there is a person (from the customer service team) always ready to solve any question of people (patients) utilizing direct communication channels. 

But this is not financially feasible as it requires huge investment on the customer service team. 

One can argue here that the technology can easily replace the customer service team - but that’s not the entire concept here. 

Because healthcare requires people-driven customer service as the entire industry deals with emotions. 

So, the only workable solution we have is the hybrid solution. 

The hybrid solution works similarly to a hybrid car. 

The way an electric motor helps the petrol engine to achieve higher torque and in return petrol engine charges the electric motor, the technology helps the customer service team to achieve ease, productivity and desired outcome and in return, the team runs and manages the technology. 

In other words, the technology does not directly influence the customer service - but it helps the customer service team to provide customer service with almost no efforts or zero efforts. 

This way, we are neither utilizing people to their max capabilities nor the technologies. 

We are utilizing both - with their best (and not max) capabilities. 

Because nothing can beat people and technologies working together!

Check out this best example of customer service in the aviation industry. (I know it is a different industry, but it is all about people!) 

(Imagine - what would they have done without their people!) 

RPA and chatbot are the best technologies here - only for helping the customer service team! 

When it comes to technologies helping the customer service team, RPA and chatbot lead the chart. 

Talking about RPA, it creates time for the customer service team by automating their tasks related to reporting, data entry and custom email and chat response. 

It makes sure that the customer service team gets enough data & time to handle the query of patients with almost no effort. 

Moving to the medical chatbot, it optimizes the entire patient journey from appointment booking to medical consultation to prescription reminders and follow-up meetings. 

It enables patients to get instant answers to their doubts. 

However, the major disadvantage of chatbot is that it lacks emotions as it is just a computer program answering questions of patients. 

Thus, a healthcare entity should deploy a chatbot with an aim to solve only basic and most frequent questions of patients - rather than as the alternative to customer service teams. 

The art of customer service in healthcare is all about reducing the customer service team’s efforts! 

We are so wrong with technology. 

It is here to not replace humans. Because it never can. And if it can, sustainability can be the major challenge. 

So, we should drop the idea of replacing the customer service team with the technology. 

Technology is only here to reduce the unnecessary efforts of healthcare providers and create time for them so that they can focus more on patients and their needs. 

That’s the only thing we learned working with 200+ healthcare providers in the last 7 years!