In the world of healthcare, ensuring a positive, first-time customer experience is paramount. From the first phone call to the final billing experience and everything in between, healthcare organizations need to provide the best possible experience. Through the power of mystery shopping, Baird Group has determined that 38% of first-time callers won’t become patients. (1) That’s lost revenue over one simple, but vital, interaction. This data sheds light on how central the phone experience is to acquiring and retaining patients.
While the digital front door is opening wider every day, a significant number of consumers are still choosing a phone call over online scheduling. Furthermore, many consumers make attempts to schedule online and are still directed to call, making the first phone encounter all the more important.
The Power of Mystery Shopping to Customer Experience
Mystery shopping has been widely used for decades across many industries to evaluate the customer experience in everything from banking to hospitality. In healthcare, mystery shopping involves trained individuals maneuvering the healthcare system to assess the patient’s experience. Every aspect of their encounter can be reviewed, from scheduling appointments and locating the facility to interacting with healthcare professionals and receiving treatment. Basically, every moment of truth is an opportunity to build or erode trust, yet most organizations have no idea where their greatest opportunities lie.
Dissatisfaction Lurking in Phone Calls
One of the most surprising findings of mystery shopping in healthcare is related to the patient’s first call experience. In today’s digital age, many patients schedule appointments online. However, some still prefer to speak with a person or have other concerns they’d like to address that the online system does not. In other words, when someone picks up the phone today, they want and expect to talk to a person. Yet, the data shows that a significant number of first-time callers never reach a live person. Instead, they may encounter frustrating automated phone systems, long wait times, or no answer at all. This is one prompt for patients to seek care elsewhere.
Addressing Patient Dissatisfaction: The Road to Improvement
Patient dissatisfaction over phone calls is a critical issue that healthcare organizations must address promptly. Ignoring this problem may lead to a loss of trust, reputation, and ultimately, patients.
Here are some actionable steps healthcare providers can take:
- Know your current reality – What is happening now when would-be patients call your organization?
- Enhance Phone Communication Channels: Invest in contact center technologies that streamline the process and provide a high-quality experience for callers. Identify dead ends or endless loops. Improve the accessibility of live phone operators and reduce wait times
- Empower Staff through Training: Provide training, emphasizing the importance of effective communication and empathy. In our study, we show that despite limited appointment access, callers are likely to return if they have been treated with respect and compassion. Ensure that all employees, including those in administrative roles, understand the impact of their interactions on patient satisfaction.
- Embrace Technology Thoughtfully: While technology can enhance efficiency, it should not come at the cost of personalized patient interactions. Strike a balance between automated processes and human interaction to provide the best patient experience.
- Foster a Patient-Centric Culture: Create a culture within the healthcare organization that puts the consumer experience at the center. Prioritize patient satisfaction as a key performance indicator and reward employees for delivering exceptional service.
Having the Way for Loyalty
As healthcare providers, it is essential to recognize the value of effective communication. It’s also critical to understand the critical role it plays in shaping patient perceptions. By investing in consumer-centric communication strategies, embracing technology thoughtfully, and empowering staff through training, healthcare organizations can pave the way for improved patient satisfaction and loyalty.
Remember, every phone call is an opportunity to make a positive impact on a patient’s healthcare journey. Learn more about Baird Group’s study on the first phone call in our white paper, The Power of the First Phone Call. Download your free copy today.
- The Power of the First Phone Call [White Paper], Baird Group, 2023.