In a piece published today on Hospitals and Health Networks Daily, Hayden Bush provides an interesting perspective on the customer service expectations that people have when dealing with healthcare providers and possible generational differences in those expectations. He points out that Baby Boomers and those older (the so-called Silent Generation) may have lower customer service expectations from hospitals and clinics than Gen-Xer’s and people younger. He says, older folks are less likely to change providers even when the service they get is less than stellar. They tend to stick with their providers showing more concern with organizational reputation and proximity to their homes than good customer service. In the future, he says, these organizations may be dealing with a different kind of customer – one who expects, in fact demands, good customer service much as they would expect to receive from a fine hotel or a top restaurant.
Mr. Bush relates a very positive experience he and his wife recently had with a healthcare provider organization. In particular, he notes the excellent communication services he received from clinic staff about his wife’s disposition throughout the day and what a difference it made. Recalling that event, he states;
“Outside of the positive feeling these experiences left me with on an otherwise uncertain day, coordinated customer service leaves the general impression of coordinated patient care. Conversely, my own recent trips to another nearby health care facility, which have been characterized by long waits and difficulty extracting information, left a more chaotic impression.”
Most of us will probably attest to the fact that we get better customer service and communication from our veterinarian or automobile service center than we typically get from our doctor. I know for certain that I get more regular “service reminders” to maintain my car in good working order than I get from my doctor about my health. I’m sure at least part of this difference is due to the fact that my automobile service center uses sophisticated customer relationship management software to better coordinate their communications with me.
Next week it will be my pleasure to provide a general session keynote at the Case Management Society of America’s annual conference and exhibition in San Antonio, Texas. One of my messages to this group of 2500 case management professionals will be the importance of good communication, collaboration and customer service in healthcare. Especially when dealing with people who are suffering from one or more chronic diseases - timely, regular and purposeful communication can make all the difference in relieving a patient’s anxiety and communicating a sense that the organization and its providers really care about the patient’s health and well being. Good communication also instills greater confidence that the care being delivered is well coordinated. Customer relationship management software can certainly help. So will training staff on the essentials of providing good customer service. After all, as Mr. Bush points out, future generations of patients are more likely to expect good service, and vote with their feet when it isn’t provided.
Bill Crounse, MD Senior Director, Worldwide Health Microsoft