Health plays an important role in our lives. It’s a large part of what enables us to have productive, successful, and happy lives. Over the last few years, the healthcare industry continues to record consistent and significant growth, and to no surprise. From joyous moments like the birth of a child, to the hands on care needed in the twilight years of life, the importance of healthcare is not lost on us.
Despite the monumental role it plays, it is beyond ironic that the healthcare industry is struggling with customer experience. A recent benchmark for healthcare facilities, insurance and pharmacy placed the highest scores for Net Promoter at a pitiful 16.
That just goes to show how far behind the healthcare industry is in terms of delivering quality customer experiences. On the upside, it also means that while there is much to improve, any improvements can, and will, help the industry flourish and evolve even more.
One of the primary problems that beset the CX delivery in healthcare is having the wrong mentality. The first example of this is when healthcare companies find themselves trapped in a mentality that values metrics and numbers over customer sentiment.
That’s not to say that numbers and other quantitative measurements aren’t important. Unfortunately, oftentimes achieving metric goals comes at the cost of delivering genuine, human service. And in the emotionally and financially sensitive field of healthcare, the absence of CX can be costly.
This is the age where consumers have come to expect "surprise and delight" from customer experience. So, while staff may be skilled at their jobs, it won't matter if they don't show exemplary rapport. Patients are more likely to walk away remembering poor bedside manner than good.
Consumers are impulsed to punish bad service more readily than to reward delightful service -- Matthew Dixon for HBR
A second pitfall of having the wrong mindset is simply assuming that you know better than your customers. Many companies allow themselves to believe their own marketing and basically stop listening to their customers' needs. Instead of asking patients “What do you need?”, they end up saying “THIS is what you need, take it or leave it.”
Companies Doing It Right
Many healthcare organizations have problems in CX delivery, but these two companies are valuable examples of success:
Today, it has the reputation for having a cost-effective operation while also delivering high-quality medical service. But that hasn’t always been the case. A review in 2009 showed that patients didn’t think much of their experience. CEO, Delos “Toby” Cosgrove, decided to change that.
Cleveland Clinic began to make systematic and sustained effort to identify problem areas and address any issues they found. They made it a point to make all members of the organization understand the importance of improving patient satisfaction. And by all members, that meant all executives down to the utility staff.
The clinic set realistic goals and monitored their initiatives so they could continuously improve on them. As a result, patient satisfaction is significantly up, and they’re a world-class model for CX delivery. The Cleveland Clinic has also shown meaningful improvement in safety and delivery of care.
Health insurance is a highly competitive field. The UMPC Health Plan, however, has built itself to be the second-largest health insurer in western Pennsylvania. It distinguishes itself from the competition by its customer-centered strategy.
UPMC mainly maximizes its channels of communication with customers, choosing to engage them on several platforms. This approach ensures that customer concerns are received and addressed more promptly. The system also helps consolidate patient concerns and generates data for further improvements.
As a result, UPMC has seen a significant uptick in enrollment through the years. It has also received awards as industry peers recognize the unmistakable benefits of its customer-based approach to doing business.
The lessons to be learned here aren’t just limited to the wellness industry. Other industries would benefit from studying the successful customer experience improvements of wellness organizations (while being mindful to avoid "best practices" pitfalls)
Many companies have highly-skilled staff, but fail when it comes to being customer-centric. It can be a challenge to balance the expectations of customers with traditional corporate culture, which emphasizes shareholder concerns or the bottom line.
If this is the mindset of an organization, use the fact that being more customer-centric is essential to a brand’s continued growth and development. This should happen beginning from the c-suite down to rank-and-file employees. Remember that in today’s highly-competitive and information-driven operating environment, customers are more discerning. That means they can easily switch to a competitor if their needs aren’t met. In healthcare and other industries, unmet expectations may even result in legal woes.
It’s great when a company is completely on board to establish a more customer-centric strategy. However, it pays to set realistic goals and not try to do a complete overhaul in one go. This is where creating customer journey maps come in.
They serve as a tool for company's to spot problem areas, so that they can then develop a plan of action of where to begin improvement initiatives. Customer journey maps also then help monitor performance and metrics on those initiatives so that the growth process is maintained.
Customer input IS very important. A brand should not simply assume what the customer needs. Many companies who’ve reached out have found that oftentimes, customers are very willing to tell them what those needs are. Conduct surveys and studies and solicit input to better understand how customers think, feel and act. The data collected will be a rich resource that will help determine the strategy going forward.
It's also important to push for a change in mindset in the organization. C-level officers should have a good grasp of the new goals, and must be able to cascade initiatives down the chain of command. Stress the importance of meeting these objectives and establish open lines of communication for further improvement in the future.
The days of the “one size fits all” approach are long gone. Patients and customers alike are looking for customized solutions that fit their specific needs. Delivering a good customer experience isn’t rocket science, but it does require passion, dedication, and effort.
Many brands have already discovered that becoming more customer-centric, although costly at first is beneficial in the long run. We’re talking about marked improvement for their product/service quality AND bottom line. And that’s a scenario where everyone wins.