By Meng-xi Hu, Head of Customer Success, AskNicely
In 2020, the phrase “frontline workers” became ubiquitous and associated primarily with doctors, nurses, paramedics, and even truck drivers who worked tirelessly to keep the wheels of the healthcare system and the economy from coming to a grinding halt. It brought to the nation’s and the world’s attention the critical and essential role they play in society. And rightly so. If nothing else, the pandemic emphasized the importance of acknowledging the contributions of those providing this vital care. Nevertheless, with the overwhelming nature of the healthcare system currently, it is not unusual for frontline workers to feel like a cog in the machine, endlessly going through the motions day after day. As a result, the patient feels like a number or a transaction – rather than a seen individual. The blame, however, does not lie with the healthcare staff (who are overworked and not given the coaching and feedback they need to succeed) but with the industry and its failure to recognize that the patient experience begins with the first point of contact.
Medical organizations have begun to look to service-related industries, such as retail, hospitality and banking, to emulate their renowned customer service successes and strategies. Now, many healthcare businesses leverage the same tools and technologies of these other industries – most notably, customer experience (CX) platforms. While this is encouraging, the problem is that some of the most commonly used CX platforms have several flaws. Not only are they difficult to implement and manage, but the feedback collected often ends up in the back office, where it sits waiting to be analyzed. Rarely does this all-important feedback make it into the hands and ears of the person delivering the services. And if it does, it’s likely too late to do anything about it. Such an inefficient strategy makes insightful discovery into what is working or not working challenging. It also hinders decision-makers from immediately providing coaching to correct issues or recognition to award superb performances.
Though lamentable, these inadequate platforms have been a catalyst inspiring the development of new models that simplify feedback capture and insight discovery. Healthcare-related organizations using these best-in-class CX tools can:
- Measure feedback from every interaction in a user-friendly format.
- Clearly understand what is happening at each location and with each team and individual.
- Recognize when frontline workers have delivered a great experience and share relevant customer feedback.
- Coach team members on what they need to improve.
- Get the necessary information into the hands of the right people – frontline teams – to deliver a better customer experience.
Still, a comprehensive CX platform is only as successful as a healthcare company’s commitment to exercise excellent CX practices and habits. One of the first steps in ensuring frontline workers have the means to deliver exceptional care is setting service standards and sharing them across the entire organization. For healthcare, a major part of this is delivering on the promise to provide high-quality care. As it stands, only 26% of U.S. workers believe their organization always delivers on promises to customers. Alternatively, healthcare businesses can put their service standards in easily-viewable areas for everyone to see to ensure that there is no ambiguity about what – in the minds of both employees and patients – represents quality care.
Zoom+Care is a perfect example of how service standards elevate the patient experience. This enterprise operates over 50 urgent care medical centers across Oregon and Washington with a mission to reduce the waste in traditional healthcare while keeping people healthier, happier and more creative. Zoom+Care lives by the motto “twice the health, at half the price, with ten times the delight.” They back this up with their ten service standards, which are printed prominently on the wall of every clinic. It’s a unique, holistic experience that starts with a mobile app for booking appointments and includes an online chat with doctors and a “Perfect Visit” experience that guarantees meetings are always on time.
After establishing these essential standards, healthcare businesses can then encourage frontline teams to start each day with a ritual of setting a single, achievable goal based on one of their service standards. Over time, each small goal (like being on time) will become a habit, which will lead to another – all the while improving the customer experience.
Another critical habit is to collect patient feedback to determine whether service standards are actually getting met. Surveys are a great way to do so, but long ones usually turn patients away. Ideally, medical companies should rely on these three questions: a rating, topic and verbatim text response – that’s where the gold is. Then, this feedback must get disseminated to the frontline promptly and accordingly. The benefits of getting patient feedback to frontline workers are considerable – whether giving shout-outs to keep employees engaged, coaching on areas that need improvement or recognizing achievements.
One leading healthcare brand that leverages patient feedback for excellent results is BioReference Labs. Having realized that patients wanted healthcare from the convenience of their homes, BioReference Labs created Scarlet Health, an in-home, fully integrated digital platform that provides access to safe and on-demand diagnostic services. With Scarlet, BioReference is helping make expedient healthcare real for millions of Americans by bringing diagnostic services directly to patients’ homes, offices and other preferred locations. Nevertheless, BioReference needed a way to close the customer feedback loop – so it integrated Scarlet with a CX platform capable of capturing vital feedback from its in-home treatment services. By sharing patient feedback directly with the care providers, BioReference’s frontline workers were able to receive immediate positive reinforcement and, in the rare times that things don’t go according to plan, access to the best training possible.
Winning CX habits and a robust CX platform must be inseparable. A medical organization could collect all of the juicy patient feedback possible – but if they don’t have the technology to send it automatically to frontline workers, the company won’t be nearly as effective. Likewise, if leadership were to devise brilliant service standards – but if they have no way of ensuring that frontline teams received reminders to implement those standards into their daily routines, the managers’ efforts would have been in vain. Moreover, as the country and world continue to evolve in this post-pandemic world, it is paramount that healthcare businesses strive to empower their frontline staff by giving them the CX technologies and habits necessary for success.
Meng-xi Hu is the Head of Customer Success at AskNicely. She is an experienced management consultant with a background in corporate law and brings together high-level strategic thinking with a detail-oriented, bias for action. Her key experience includes M&A (both commercial and legal), PMI, post-acq turnarounds, strategy, GTM strategy, customer experience and success and sales force effectiveness.
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