(Featured in Physicians Practice, March 22, 2018)
Shaping the Customer Experience
In recent years healthcare staffing made a concerted effort to be held accountable to the customer experience it provides to physicians and medical facilities. I was fortunate to help a firm implement the same system now used as the benchmark for service quality across our industry. From that experience I learned some valuable lessons worth sharing with practices concerned with improving their reputation.
Managing your reputation is often suggested within the context of promoting your business. For example, how you should combat negative reviews online with a new marketing approach. Or, how to ask satisfied customers to write a review about their positive experiences with your business, or how to focus on building an improved office environment in which to see patients.
However, this approach only offers a short-term marketing solution. It does not address the root problems, including customer service failures that may be causing your reputation to suffer.
Here are some keys to consider in taking the long-term, more beneficial approach to addressing the customer experience you provide.
Set Realistic Expectations
It may sound trite, but the customer’s perception of your practice is reality. Instead of focusing on new influencers to drown out detractors, accept the reputation you’ve earned and take the opportunity to redeem your brand by making real changes to how you interact with patients. They’ve already taken the time to give you feedback, listen to what they have to say, especially those whose expectations you failed to meet.
Otherwise, you’re ignoring the source of word-of-mouth that carries the most weight – your detractors. Additionally, you’re driving more unrealistic customer expectations by promoting a level of service you’re unprepared to meet on a consistent basis.
Choose a Simple System to Empower Change
Adopt a simple system to benchmark your service quality that allows your practice to easily tap into the widest possible number of customer responses. That means choosing a program that has the least number of questions, with basic scoring for year-over-year trends to look at, and preferably is able to be implemented through an unbiased third-party.
In our industry, the benchmark is the Net Promoter Score (NPS), of Satmatrix, Bain & Co., & Fred Reichheld fame. In its most basic form it measures your customer’s willingness to recommend your business (and why or why not), with a simple scoring system from 1 to 10.
The goal is to find the touch-point in which your business interacts with the customer that allows for the greatest improvement for positive change.
As a physician, realize your overall reputation is much more than the one-on-one interaction you share with the patient. You’re a business that has multiple touch points with the customer, and service failures may be coming from outside of your own personal influence. If so, this provides a golden opportunity for you to empower your team to improve the overall customer experience through their ability to apply real change in your business process.
Close the Loop and Set the Narrative
The most important aspect is to close the loop and return to the customers who’ve taken the time to give you feedback, one by one, to let them know you listened to them, and most importantly, took action based on their feedback.
Believe it or not, marketing comes last. Once you’ve made a serious effort to address the core drivers of your practice’s customer experience, think about how easily you can enable your promoters to set the narrative.
At this point, you can finally invest in marketing tactics, such as digital campaigns. Build a platform to provide satisfied patients with a place to express their loyalty on their own terms. Then, you can market their stories of how your practice exceeded their expectations.
Mike Gianas (Redemption Creative LLC) is a Dallas, Texas-based healthcare marketing consultant with the National Association of Locum Tenens Organizations® (NALTO®), the only professional association of temporary physician staffing firms committed to a code of ethics and to maintaining the highest industry standards.