Customer services in healthcare is often taken as a given. There simply are not many other industries that you spend more time in close interaction with people? That’s exactly why customer service is so important, especially when it comes to rural hospitals and small clinics.
For the rural healthcare facilities, customer service is the most important tool in the marketing strategy toolbox. While rural healthcare providers can’t have the fanciest, the biggest, or the most expensive equipment, they can have a commitment to taking care of patients and family members with dignity, respect, and compassion that is often not found in the larger hospitals.
What customer service means
Customer service is more than just answering a patient’s request. It means anticipating a patient’s needs and responding to concerns with compassion and understanding. Instead of just answering “sure” when a patient asks for something, the healthcare team members need to show through their speech and actions that they are genuinely concerned for their patients’ well-being. When someone asks for directions, don’t point; take the person to that location. Communicating with patients and understanding their needs is the best way to build trust. Sometimes it is as simply suggesting an extra pillow or socks.
For many hospitals, a great deal of customer service takes place over the phone – answering questions, scheduling appointments, explaining payments. This is one of the most frequent and important tasks many members of the non-clinical healthcare team will face. That means phone conversations cannot be treated with a sense of drudgery. Phone conversations need to be welcoming and understand about patient confusion and questions. For those who work in the hospital field, it is easy to forget that most patients are not experts. That is why having an intuitive sense of patient concerns is so important when it comes to talking with people about their health needs.
Maintaining good patient relations means staying in contact. Especially in small communities, patients are our neighbors. Building bridges and lasting relationships between patients and healthcare professionals is what really separates community healthcare from corporate hospitals. Don’t badger patients, but to call them on the phone to check up after a surgery, difficult stay in the hospital or the birth of a baby will show that your staff is compassionate and genuinely concerned with the health of the community.
Don’t be afraid to apologize
It is easy for patients to get irritated when it comes to appointment times or other administrative issues. One of the biggest complaints in healthcare is wait times. We know that it’s not always possible to predict how long an appointment or procedure will take. There are all sorts of variables that influence waiting times that patients who don’t work in healthcare wouldn’t be able to know about. A simple apology can go a long way toward restoring patient trust and improving satisfaction. Being empathetic to patient concern has two benefits: It can help diffuse frustration and can sometimes reveal opportunities for improvement.
Customer service is often the best marketing tool for small hospitals and clinics. Patient concern is crucial to improving satisfaction and retention. It is easy for patients who are already worried about their health concerns to become frustrated or angry. A good customer service model helps keep patients at ease and lets them know that they are being cared for by compassionate professionals.
If your healthcare facility is looking to improve its customer service program, contact SRJ Marketing Communications at 214-528-5775 to schedule a consultation. Founder and CEO, Steven R. Jolly, has over 25 years of experience educating and training health care teams in effective customer service strategies.