What can kids teach us about customer service in the health care industry?
Providing health care services for kids creates the perfect platform to address customer service in the health care industry.
Last week, UCSF Radiology launched its latest “adventure series,” an experience designed to make imaging more inviting for pediatric patients. Why? Many children suffer from anxiety when going through exams. The child-friendly scanners at Mission Bay make a big difference in how children react to being scanned.
Children remind us that we are at our most vulnerable state when it comes to health care – we are often afraid, do not want to be there, and lack information to make us feel empowered. In terms of customer service, we may not be looking for the the definition we might first expect.
In this Doug Dietz TED Talk, we hear the story of a MR scanner designer who has the opportunity, by chance, to experience a young patient’s reaction to his design – the patient is crying and holds onto her parents as she gets closer to the device. For the first time, this designer learns about the fear that customers experience with his product and uses the experience to design customer-centered scanners.
Customer fear is only part of the story. The other is the realization that, traditionally, those designing healthcare technologies and services, even for kids, did not need to focus on the experience. After all, it was patient outcomes, and not patient experiences that mattered most.
When we look across industries, we see organizations that systematically incorporate customer insights into processes. Focusing on customer perspectives and developing systems that emphasizes customer service is considered a more effective way to manage in many organizations. In health care, many still lead with the concepts of “outcomes” versus “experience/perceptions.” My questions is: Could these qualities be related?
Where are customer insights collected?
In most industries, this is not an after-the-fact collection. Instead, the starting point in the design of any new service or product is the customer perspective. One asks – What is the problem we are solving? What can be improved? Insights are collected from multiple sources. With this data, the product or service is developed and then tested extensively and evaluated from multiple perspectives. Customer needs and ratings are considered essential to the long-term success of the new launch and to the business as a whole.
Creating new definitions of customer service for the health care industry
Organizations known for prioritizing the customer experience range from those in entertainment and retail to transportation and consumer products. We often associate concepts such as “customer delight” and “cost-competitiveness” with great customer service.
Those in the healthcare industry, however, understand that customers are not expecting to be delighted, necessarily. As Doug Dietz reminds us, they are looking for concepts like reassurance, compassion and information. When it comes to price competitiveness, the sector faces structural impediments to offering clear pricing and cost-competitiveness, as we might expect in other industries. Clearly, many traditional customer service concepts, including “delight” and “cost-competitiveness” do not apply to the health care industry.
Despite the fact that the some of the standard models of customer service do not apply, there is still room for the concept of shaping products and services around customer perceptions.
Questions to address going forward include:
- How can we optimize patient perceptions of service while achieving optimal safety and care standards? Are these mutually exclusive?
- How does team communication and operational excellence impact patient outcomes?
- Do we evaluate total customer journeys in the healthcare environment? (Are we asking all the right questions?)
- Do we monitor patient anxiety/stress as they navigate our system? Can we develop more objective measures of this issue?
- How is compassion evaluated and optimized across teams?
Looking forward to learning more about progress being made in the health care industry. According to The Advisory Board, net promoter scores for companies like Apple and Amazon are in the 70’s and ’80’s, but, in the health care industry, scores range between 14 and 17.