Who Are Your Customers? If You Donít Know, You May Be Disappointing Them!

In healthcare we all have customers to serve. Generally, we tend to automatically consider the patient as our customer and, in most cases, the patient is the ultimate recipient of the services we provide.

But having a singular focus on the patient as the customer can be misguided in some instances. For example:

  • From an Environmental Services point-of-view, the patient is the obvious end-user and recipient of the environment they provide, but they have another customer that they serve: nursing staff who can’t admit a new patient until a room is clean. Their needs and perspectives are important too.
  • From the Pharmacy’s point-of-view, the patient is also an important end-user, but pharmacists don’t administer or prescribe medications. They must partner with physicians and nurses to serve that ultimate end consumer—the patient.
  • IT doesn’t play a role in direct patient care but they are vital to the direct care givers and others within the organization.

In a healthcare setting, there are a wide range of support service personnel whose actions impact the patient, but whose direct contacts points serve the needs of others within the organization who represent their “true” customer.

Not having a clear idea of who you are actually serving, can lead to missed opportunities and unmet expectations.

As we work with healthcare organizations around the country, we use an interdepartmental survey tool to help our clients engage in meaningful discussion and collaboration across departments. We encourage our clients to engage in meaningful conversations with staff to explore the issues of:

  • Who are our customers? What is the specific stakeholder group we serve who relies on what we deliver to aid them in their roles?
  • What do our customers need from us to be most effective in serving our mutual end customer—the patient?
  • How are we currently staying in touch with the customer to assess and respond to their needs?
  • How well are we meeting our customers’ needs?

This last point is one that requires some specific evaluation—not just personal assumptions. That’s where the survey tool comes into play. It serves as an efficient method for gathering data which serves as the basis for discussion, collaboration, and service improvement plans. The tool becomes a point of reference for leaders as they learn to give and receive feedback in significant ways to enhance the culture and ultimately boost the patient experience.

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