By Kate Dalbey, Senior Vice President of Client Services, Hero Digital
Kate is a trusted strategic advisor at Hero leading complex digital initiatives for healthcare clients. In her previous post, she discussed how to get buy-in to undertake the digital transformation essential to meet climbing patient expectations – starting with putting the patient first. Below, she discusses how to get started using customer experience technology in order to treat patients like customers.
Many healthcare companies lag behind on the urgent need for customer experience management in their organizations. A study from PwC shows that just 49% of consumers say that their healthcare customer experience is satisfactory. Your patients are customers. Treat them like it!
In the digital arena, in particular, discontent is high. According to an NTT DATA study, the majority (62%) of customers report they can’t accomplish simple goals online, such as searching for a doctor, accessing health records, or paying bills. Plus, 4 in 10 claim the options available online are not relevant to them and are unhappy with how long tasks take to complete.
Consumer expectations for healthcare are the same as those for retail or hospitality — convenience, responsive service, and user-friendly communication — but a huge chasm exists between those expectations and what the industry delivers.
So why are healthcare providers late to hear the customer experience siren that has roused countless other industries to prioritize delighting their audiences?
The trap of perceiving healthcare customers as patients
Perhaps the failure to respond to market needs is because care providers have traditionally not viewed their clientele as customers. Rather, they cast them as “patients,” a term that implies a captive audience consisting of passive recipients of care.
Obviously people in an emergency health crisis have little choice. However, many “patients” do not fall into the do-or-die category. These patients are actually “customers” who actively research and weigh their options to make informed decisions. They want to shop for doctors and hospitals the same way they would shop for any item ranging from a book on Amazon to a Delta Airlines ticket.
Joining the Customer Experience revolution
To deliver an experience that delights customers, healthcare providers cannot merely aspire to be on par with their direct competitors. Instead, they must look to industries that go above and beyond consumer expectations, continually raising the bar.
The following three steps outline how you can start your path to customer experience management in healthcare.
Map the customer journey
Because customers are not just evaluating the doctor’s bedside manner and skills, map every touchpoint in the customer journey. Do so by talking to staff in the departments that control different parts of the journey.
The customer journey starts long before the patient signs in at hospital admissions or enters the physician’s waiting room. For many patients, it begins at the start of their symptoms as they weigh care options. In 2016, for the first time, consumers relied on online ratings more than word-of-mouth referrals to help select healthcare providers. In fact, an eyebrow-raising 63% choose a provider because of their online presence. Vendors with accurate, relevant, and compelling online information are most likely to attract new customers.
More than half of patients use a personal computer or laptop to find a provider and 40% use a tablet or mobile device, according to the Customer Experience Trends in Healthcare 2018 report. After making a selection, consumers expect a seamless transition to the next phase of their journey. They want to schedule their doctor’s visit through the provider’s website, mobile app, or by email.
Mine data and conduct Voice of the Customer (VoC) research
Once you map the customer journey, you need to gain insights into it. You likely have web analytics that show digital interactions with customers, but don’t overlook measuring wait times in doctors’ offices, frequently asked questions (FAQs) from patient calls, or any other part of the journey. To understand customer motivations and pain points, use both qualitative and quantitative research techniques to gain their feedback.
You may find, for example, long delays in waiting rooms get visits off on the wrong foot. Perhaps consumers feel that test turnarounds take too long or that it’s difficult to pay bills and fill prescriptions. Through your research, you can discover the highs and lows of each touchpoint.
Take action to improve the patient experience one step at a time
Focus on the areas where you can have the most significant impact quickly. Perhaps you delight customers with quick test turnarounds, easy access to results, and by providing simple ways to pay bills and fill prescriptions.
One of our clients realized they could simplify the journey at their virtual front door by providing content and tools that help prospective patients make healthcare decisions. Their new Physician Directory and Find a Doctor Tool helped customers access crucial information that assisted with decision making, which also increased conversion rates and operational efficiencies in the process. Customer-first success!
The healthcare industry is ripe for a revolution in customer experience management. You don’t have to leap forward into uncharted territory in medical technology. Instead, map the customer journey, do your research, and implement changes one step at a time. As you go, celebrate each success along the way.
Kate Dalbey, Senior Vice President of Client Services, at Hero Digital, has been at the helm of the toughest and most complex digital initiatives for healthcare leaders for over 16 years. Follow her on LinkedIn and check out Hero Digital’s healthcare CX services.