Every successful business knows very well that customer experience should always be one of their top priorities. Healthcare organizations are no different – after all - even patients are customers, and the more satisfied they are, the higher are your chances to see your company grow and thrive.
Patient satisfaction goes hand in hand with a business’ reputation.
Knowing how to deal with individual patients and their families is paramount to determine how the world will perceive your healthcare organization.
To go even further, great customer service will help you to establish your brand and acquire new customers from word-of-mouth marketing.
Why is customer service in healthcare industry is very important?
Thinking that your patient’s sole priority is getting better as quickly as possible is a common misconception. When people need to check in with a doctor or simply feel sick, they also feel scared and vulnerable.
Their customer experience is just as important as the efficiency of the treatments provided – after all, they’re not products, but living human beings seeking your services in their time of need.
For example, a Cisco survey found that more than two-thirds of patients feel better when a physician specifically address their queries over the telephone.
Ensuring that the experience of your patients is consistently positive at all times increases your chances to keep them as customers instead of losing them to attrition.
If people feel that your organization cares about them, they will care about your organization as well. They will leave positive reviews of your business, speak about them with family members and friends, and “help you help them” when they seek your services.
If their experience was pleasantly positive, they would know that your company is providing them with the value from every angle rather than just medical treatment and drug prescriptions.
On the other hand, when the experience is not consistent, they will leave disappointed and mark your healthcare organization as “bad” – even if they were treated to the best of your possibilities.
Competitors that prioritize customer service may easily surpass you even if they have fewer doctors, fewer technologically-advanced diagnostics, or access to newer treatments.
Make sure to meet compliance regulations all the time
The sensitive nature of the customer service in healthcare vertical means that patient’s data must be managed with the maximum efficiency at all times.
A subtle part of customer service, making sure that data security is guaranteed at all times is key to avoid dealing with a lawsuit filed by a patient whose privacy was inadvertently violated.
In the United States, the HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) is a law that strictly regulates the storage and transfer of medical records to protect the patient’s data.
Every hospital, clinic, and even the doctor’s office has the duty to protect every patient’s personal information.
However, many healthcare facilities still rely on obsolete and inefficient internal communication processes that regularly fail to safeguard data security and privacy.
Using HIPAA-compliant messaging systems is one of the most overlooked requirements to run a modern facility – and a foolproof method to avoid fighting in court against expensive civil actions.
However, the HIPAA is just the tip of the iceberg. You may need to employ other more advanced technological solutions such as SIEM to maintain compliance with regulations ranging from GDPR to SOX and FISMA.
Due to the massive amount of sensitive customer data that should be handled every day, healthcare communications can be a minefield of risk points for cybersecurity threats. Handling them properly should be a priority for your organization.
Now when we know why is customer service in healthcare important and what regulations you need to have before even starting to organize your customer service workflows and processes, let’s see how to the customer service in healthcare the best as you can.
Ensuring efficient internal communication
Ensuring efficient internal communication is the key to high-quality processes and great customer service in healthcare.
Hospitals and clinics can be extremely dynamic environments where dozens of professionals should coordinate their efforts to provide an efficient service to thousands of patients.
Fragmentation in care often occurs as a consequence of mishandled information – especially when older doctors and nurses keep having a hard time keeping up with the newer electronic health records (EHRs).
Precious information may fall through the cracks, leaving your more demanding patients stranded and unhappy.
The complexity of internal communication is just another one of the many healthcare challenges that may lower the quality of your customer service in healthcare industry.
Emails, pagers, or loudspeakers are unreliable ways to communicate between teams that can slow down your work process to a crawl.
Keeping everyone connected with modern technologies is now more important than ever. Solutions such as audio and video messaging, screen sharing, and instant text can cut down the traffic of slow and clunky messages such as emails, and reduce the clutter to zero.
The best way to ensure efficient internal communication is by using Slack - online platform for team collaboration. Even more, this platform can help you to have a high-quality customer service in healthcare, but more about that later.
How to use Slack for Healthcare
Slack isn’t just a platform where you can chat with your entire team members in one place - it’s much more than that.
Slack is the ultimate team collaboration tool that can be used by healthcare businesses to automate their entire processes and workflows.
For example, did you know that you can have your entire meetings, bookings and patient’s consultations in just one place?
You can easily integrate your calendar with Slack, and you’re ready to go.
Not to mention that Slack also has various bots that can be used for ensuring quality team culture, daily standups, monitoring everyone’s daily obligations, and many other things.
As you can see, ensuring quality internal organisation and communication is the key for every healthcare company - and Slack can be the right tool for that.
Establishing rock-solid communication policies
Working in a hectic workplace while bearing the responsibility of dealing with ill people can be really stressful.
However, if a patient gets a bad answer from one of your employees, he or she will remember that for a long time.
Keep an eye on the interactions between healthcare professionals and customers to determine if every customer is treated with all the necessary respect and humanity.
Establish a series of reliable guidelines to teach your employees how they are expected to behave at all times. Here are a few key points:
- Be patient with patients: your patients are, first and foremost, human beings. Since they’re sick or ill, they’re inherently more vulnerable than healthy people and, therefore, much needier than everyone else. Your employees should never forget that, and try to put themselves in their shoes whenever they can.
- Focus on empathy and humanity: Non-verbal communication can be as important if not even more important inside a healthcare facility. Patients need to be reassured by doctors and nurses, especially when they suffer from a serious or debilitating condition. Teach them to take their time talking with patients and look them in the eyes, using all the necessary nonverbal cues to make patients feel reassured and valued.
- Be respectful of everyone: All human beings are equal, regardless of their culture, race, gender, sexual orientation, skin color, social background, or religion. Treatment should be provided to anyone at any time, without disparities and inequalities. All religious or cultural norms should be respected, no matter how strange, different, or distant they may be. Keep a vigilant eye on subtle behaviors that may hide signs of potential harassment.
- Do not force people to ask the same thing twice: Whenever a hospitalized patient is seeking medical attention, maximum responsiveness should always be guaranteed. People don’t want to have to ask for the same problem several times. Especially if they’re asking for something related to their health, asking once should always be more than enough.
- Never fight or argue with customers: some people are really annoying, that’s sure. But arguing with them is pointless, as everyone who will witness the fight will simply get the wrong impression. Tell your employees always to smile and be nice even if they’re attacked by people who disrespect them. Ignoring their bad manners is the best way to deal with them. If things go south and they feel threatened, they can always call the support or security teams to deal with dangerous patients without indulging in unnecessary fights.
- Provide all the necessary explanations: It’s normal for patients and their beloved ones to become anxious about their conditions. Tell your hospital staff to take their time to provide all the necessary explanations to patients in distress and their families. It’s important to be clear and understandable, so teach your employees how to talk with people without using complex words or overly complicated medical jargon.
- Talk with patients frequently: Asking many questions is just as important as answering them. The more a doctor or nurse knows about a patient, his history, and his or her health, the better will be the service delivered. At the same time, well-informed patients are less likely to complain when they find out something they didn’t like or expect.
- Clean appearance and dress code: a hospital is not like any other workplace. It is a place where basic hygiene is more than just important, so it is everyone’s personal responsibility to dress and shave adequately. A dirt-free appearance contributes to building confidence and trust by creating a good image of the hospital.
Measure satisfaction and request feedback
Is your service really as efficient as you think or claim it to be?
No one can provide a better, more sincere answer than patients themselves.
Collecting feedback is extremely important to measure your patients’ satisfaction levels, and know where you should act to smooth out the rough edges.
Even if most feedback received is positive, work on those who are unsatisfied. Never ignore a complaint, even if you know it’s a hard-to-please audience (such as the elderly).
Take everything seriously, and at least you will show your patients that you’re doing your best at all times.
In fact, that’s another one of the reasons why you should maintain a system to monitor your customer satisfaction.
Keep track of all the information after each visit, make follow-ups with emails and phone calls, and ask your patients to answer some simple surveys on the quality of the service provided.
Other than providing you with useful insights about the areas where you can improve, it will create a standard of quality control that will work both ways to improve your business’ reputation.
It will help you keep everything under control, it will remember your employees that they’re constantly scrutinized, and will appease your patients since they will know you’re looking into every issue.
Define a strategic action plan
Once you finished putting all your ducks in a row, it’s time to establish a solid strategy to tackle all the internal issues that negatively impact your customer experience.
Defining an intervention plan can be challenging, especially if your targets and goals are not made clear to your employees.
Start by establishing a set of practical and measurable milestones that will standardize your quality experience over time. For example instead of saying:
“We must improve the speed at which patient appointments are scheduled and visited.”
You should say:
“At least 80% of patients who call our reception, must receive an appointment for the same or next day. Waiting time in the reception area should never exceed 15 minutes before they’re admitted to the doctor’s office.”
Provide your employees with all the necessary instructions to achieve these goals, so that they know exactly what they should do.
Every manager’s duty is to coordinate the efforts of all teams, after all. Generic statements are usually hard to understand for your team staff, and even harder to follow and put in practice.
Here’s another example – instead of saying:
“We should improve our communication efforts with all patients during the registration phase.”
“All personnel should answer the phone within three rings. During each call, the receptionist must inform patients about specific departmental procedures, ask caller's permission before placing him or her on hold, and end the conversation in a professional and courteous way.”
Work on positive interactions
When patients are frightened already by their own health conditions, they can become super-sensitive about the environment that surrounds them.
If your health staff is annoyed, tired, or overworked, they can become upset as well. Make everyone at your workplace feel happier and more engaged is certainly easier said than done, but you should work on that as well.
However, a rather simple and relatively inexpensive method to at least improve the atmosphere is to teach your teams to focus on positive interactions.
You should train your employees to change their language to consistently deliver positive messages instead of using negative talking points.
Every “no” should be transformed into a “yes, but…” and every “we can’t” should become a “we will do our best to.” Here are a few examples:
Instead of saying:
“I don’t know / I can’t.”
“I will help you to the best of my possibilities.”
This is not the best way to put it:
“Sorry, we’re too busy right now.”
This is a much better way, instead:
“Sure, give us 10 minutes and we will help you in no time!”
When you’re scared and upset, this is not the answer you want to hear:
"I’m sorry if that happened. There’s nothing I can do about it."
This one, instead, will make you feel a lot better:
"I'm really sorry that happened. Is there anything I can do to help you?"
As your team learns how to make use of positive reinforcement, they will start breathing a much fresher air during their work shifts. The atmosphere will be filled with good vibes, and both patients and workers will benefit from that.
Proactive Customer Service in Healthcare
According to a reliable study from Johns Hopkins and the University of Rochester, proactively engaging your patients can lower patient no-shows by at least 30%.
In fact, even a simple text message or call to confirm an appointment will act both as a reminder and a secure way to help patients reschedule their appointments if they need.
If patients are more precise and punctual, queues and wait times of doctors will be shorter. Other than improving your revenues by increasing your retention rate, proactive customer service is a very effective way to improve your patient’s loyalty and engagement.
Handing your patients useful educational information about your practice, medical procedures, and new technologies will keep them interested in your services and improve your reputation.
Providing them with useful info about physician schedules, insurance requirements, and parking directions will reduce misunderstandings and other issues which may lead to negative customer experiences.
Let your patients contact you from different channels
Having multiple ways of contacting your customer service is from crucial importance. For example, not everyone is okay with calling you through the phone. Some of the patients are perhaps shy.
Thus, enabling multiple ways of communication is important.
Here’re a couple of communication channels you can use for your customer service in healthcare:
- Customer Service Email (usually something like: scheduling@yourdomain or support@yourdomain)
- Facebook page - A lot of your patients are already on Facebook, so enabling them to easily contact you through Facebook can be a big competitive advantage. Not to mention that it will improve your customer satisfaction and customer service overall.
- SMS messages/Whatsup/Viber - I rarely saw healthcare businesses that are using these communication channels for their customer service - perhaps this can be a great jackpot.
- Live Chat - Live Chat is an amazing way of doing customer service in healthcare industry. Since someone probably found your company from Google, he landed on your website, and, guess what - he has a lot of questions about you and your services. Enabling live chat can both help you to improve your customer service in healthcare and acquire new (loyal) patients.
How to use Live Chat for Customer Service in Healthcare
As we could see, live chat in the healthcare industry can be of crucial importance.
It will not just help you to acquire new customers, but it will also:
- Improve your customer service in healthcare
- Retain your existing patients
- Help you to schedule more meetings without touching your phone
- Help you to organise your internal processes (but more about that later)
As you can see, live chat is great for providing customer service in healthcare industry and converting your website visitors into patients.
But, as we mentioned above, since your internal communication and organisation matters, choosing the right live chat software matter as well.
Not all live chats are appropriate for doing customer service in healthcare industries.
Since healthcare businesses are usually chaotic, the good live chat must:
- Be simple, quick and easy-to-use - since investing too much time on the live chats can be bad for some other things.
- It must integrate pretty well with your internal organisation and communication
- It will be desirable if it can support multiple communication channels at once (so you won’t need to use multiple customer service tool for emails, sms messages, Facebook messages, and so on).
So, the question is, what live chat is good for doing customer service in the healthcare industry?
This may sound as the shameless self-promotion and bragging, but believe me, it isn’t.
A wast majority of our customers are actually coming from the healthcare industry, and thus, we can proudly say that lemtalk can be a good live chat and customer service software for you.
To back this up, we interviewed our healthcare customers, and they say that they decided to stay with lemtalk because:
- It’s integrated into Slack - which means that you can receive and answer all of your customer support messages (whether they came from Live Chat, email, SMS or Facebook), directly from your Slack channel - the place of your internal organisation
- It’s super easy-to-use and it doesn’t waste your time.
- It covers multiple communication channels (email, Facebook, SMS and Live Chat) - so you will use one software for all communication channels and be able to quickly support your patients all the time.
Is lemtalk the best live chat and customer service software for the healthcare industry - we don’t know since we don’t work there. But if we believe to our customers, it seems like it is.
So, if you want to improve your customer service in healthcare right now, don’t hesitate to create an account on lemtalk.
Investing in better customer experience is vital for healthcare organizations as it helps them twice. Increasing patient satisfaction will make them feel better and happier, and their health will ultimately improve as well.