I’ve read a statistic that indicates that for one person who speaks up with a complaint, there are 15 others standing quietly behind them and nodding agreement. This is, in fact, something we teach in our service recovery training classes. When one person complains, we should treat it as a gift. It is more common for dissatisfied people to stay silent than to speak up at the time of the service disruption. They are however, telling others about their dissatisfaction. In fact, they could be using social media to send their rants to thousands.
I try to follow my own advice and speak up when there is an opportunity for improvement in healthcare. I make the assumption that healthcare organizations and their leaders are open to seeing opportunity for improvement. The problem is, not everyone is waiting with bated breath for my highly valuable feedback. No, in fact, more often than not when I politely offer suggestions or give my opinion, the person receiving the information is either put off or disinterested. But I keep trying because I have a personal commitment to make healthcare better for patients and the people who serve them.
Today I read a blog post written by a woman in Detroit ranting about a horrible experience she had at her local medical center. Even though it was posted as an open letter to the COO of the center, I encouraged her to call or send a personal letter to the COO as well. Again, I’m assuming he or she would welcome the information from a dissatisfied patient. After advising this, I thought back to the times I have personally reached out to give feedback to healthcare leaders only to be blown off. Despite that pattern I will continue to advise consumers to speak up directly and respectfully in the name of making our industry better. My theory is that if we are receptive to feedback and prompt in service recovery steps, we may actually prevent people from venting in social media where you have little chance of curbing the flow of bad press. My challenge to my readers is to think about the following: How are you receiving feedback? What mechanisms are in place to gather feedback? And lastly, is everyone on your staff prepared to take complaints, concerns and comments from customers? Make sure you have taken steps to create a culture of open feedback, service recovery and action. Once you have this mastered, you’ll be well on the way to creating a customer-centered experience.