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More on Customer Service

This is the second consecutive blog from me on the topic of customer service. The last one talked about good customer service experiences on a recent trip. This one goes to the other extreme as I sit in my daughter’s hospital room waiting for her to be discharged after yet another visit. I promise that this is not another rant on our health care system, but here are things I have observed from my daughter’s experience.

First, customer service-patient outcomes-is not just too low on the list of considerations, it does not even seem to be on the list. With rare exceptions, staffers act hurried and harried. They lecture and rarely ask questions. When they ask questions, they do not listen to the answers.Then there are the silos: each physician specialty is an island unto itself. They define patient condition in terms of their specialty and not in terms of the whole person they are treating. Handoffs between staff levels and between shifts are not seamless. Expectations-even when they are not pleasant-are not set. Treatment protocol changes are made without informing the patient as to why. (This is especially infuriating when the prior protocol seemed to be working well.)

I think we all understand the pressure health care professionals and their institutions are under from regulators and insurance companies. But it is almost like they have failed to ask as simple question: How can we provide excellent care (as defined by the patients) and still be financially viable? There is no law that says these two things are mutually exclusive. If they were, we would not have the Mayo Clinic or the Geisinger Health System.

The lessons for business are legion here: start with the experience customers want and how they want it and have that drive everything that is done inside the company. As it is in health care, not all outcomes can be happy ones. But the handling of them all can be first class. So, what are your customers saying about your company? And what are you going to do about it?