When it comes to driving a great patient experience, many health systems are suffering from an identity crisis. As more and more systems expand their geographic footprints by acquiring medical practices, they face challenges in delivering a consistent and positive patient experience. The brand promise is intended to apply in every encounter with every customer, every day. That is achievable as long as you take a realistic approach.
One of the challenges I see in my consulting is that health systems are addressing the customer experience as “one size fits all.” Medical practices are not small hospitals. They have an entirely different set of operational challenges in meeting consumer expectations. Some of the most widely accepted best practices in hospitals can feel like a retrofit when applied to medical practices. This is not lost on medical practice staff and providers.
I was recently conducting a focus group with a number of medical practice employees who shared insight about the patient experience challenges that they face. They were complaining that the “hospital-focused” training doesn’t help them. One participant told about her orientation where they reviewed customer service skills. “They spent a half hour on answering call lights. We don’t have call lights.” Another person chimed in with a service recovery example. “They talked about how to respond in different situations. One was an example of a patient complaining about the food. Another was about how to respond to complaints about noise at night. Those things have nothing to do with the type of service issues we face.”
Respect the uniqueness
Even though I know that good customer service skills (including service recovery skills) can translate nicely from inpatient to outpatient settings, the employees didn’t see it. They felt alienated. By the one-size-fits-all approach. They want to be validated by having training examples that speak to them and their most common situations.
Maybe I’m a little off kilter here but it sounds a little like a diversity and inclusion issue. How are you helping team members in your ambulatory settings to see their unique and powerful role in service excellence? Start by speaking their language.