Customer service is a term which has become intrinsic in any industry, be it IT, Digital Marketing, Hotel Management, Education and so on. While crowded hospital wards or anxiety-driven operation theatres may not be the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of customer service, recent surveys have shown the importance of this emerging sector in healthcare. More than any other industry, it is perhaps healthcare which needs this service the most. The way a nurse, doctor or health care professional interacts with the patient makes a deep impact on their healthcare experience.
Although the term “customer service” is sadly not emphasised enough in healthcare, the trend is surely catching on. In order to execute patient or customer satisfaction policies, many hospitals or other healthcare institutions are roping in top-notch consultants and investing a great amount to train existing staff in the domain of customer service.
The IOM (Institute of Medicine) correlates customer service with what they call “patient-centred care”. It defines patient-centred care as “Providing care that is respectful of and responsive to individual patient preferences, needs, and values, and ensuring that patient values guide all clinical decisions.” Patient-centred care or customer service results in better health outcomes post therapy. Unlike any other industry where the customer experience is limited to buying or selling of a product or service, the experience of a customer or patient in the world of healthcare does not start or commence at the doctor’s chamber. The whole journey of the customer, right from the detection of the disease to the recovery of the disease is counted as a service. Here are a few customer service skills required in providing quality customer service in healthcare:
Treat patients like humans
Do not treat your patients like guinea pigs waiting to be experimented upon. Health care providers who treat their patients with compassion are the ones who score brilliantly when it comes to customer service experience. Each ailment is different from the other and each patient is unique in their own way- a healthcare professional or customer service representative who understands this fact makes a tremendous difference in their patients’ lives. Making them feel comfortable and lending a ear to their joys and sorrows goes a long way in securing a loving bond between the relationship of the caregiver and caretaker.
Make a good first impression
The first impression makes the last impression. Always be courteous to your customers no matter how depressed or irritable their demeanour is. It is a known fact that customers, in this case, patients are already into the “do not mess with me” mode when they have entered the doctor’s chamber or hospital. They are already anxiety-driven and depressed due to the disease that has inflicted their minds or bodies. Be cheerful while handling them and make it a point to introduce yourselves to them. The introduction is the first stamp that seals the bond between you and your customer. While it is a known fact that treating patients has simply become a job for healthcare professionals, demonstrate your customer service skill and let not boredom manifest itself in your outward behaviour.
Do not be indifferent
Never show indifference or lack of care when it comes to dealing with your patients or their family members. They have gone through a lot of turmoil and have vested their lives in your hands, in the hope of a good treatment. Respect their confidence and trust in you. Many at times, patients with less life-threatening diseases are just waived off as unimportant entities. Also, patients may sometimes feel that they are a source of botheration or inconvenience for the doctor or nurse. These cases are undesirable and should be avoided. All patients, no matter how severe their ailments are, are important.
Do not keep your patients in the dark. Maintain transparency. Dr. Mendi, the founder of Bright Light Medical Imaging, says, “These days, just being a good doctor or nurse is not enough. We also need to provide transparency, affordability, communication and ways to make things easier for patients.” If the patient is suffering from a critical disease, do not think that you are doing any good by keeping the information a secret. Also, while admitting a patient to the hospital, be sure to explain all the hospital policies and expenditures clearly to the patient or their relatives. It is always a good thing to let them know that you care.
Keep your promises
When your patients call you up to know about their status or come up with any query and you say that you would look into the matter, be sure to keep your promise. It is completely okay if you do not have the answer but at least let them know that you are still working on it.
Since now you are completely aware of the significance of customer service skills in the world of healthcare, pep up and hone your customer service skills as it is good for both yourself and the industry you are in. A well-trained healthcare professional can go a long way in rendering an exceptional service in the field of customer satisfaction.