A few days ago, I was talking to a friend about her recent, emergent, hospital stay. She described it as, “A nightmare.” Always the researcher, I had to dig a bit to learn more. What contributed to “Lauren’s” nightmare boiled down to not being listened to, slow or no response, and poor follow through on promises. Like many dissatisfied patients, none of the examples she shared would have been classified as egregious medical errors or omissions, but all eroded her trust in the organization.
The Costs of Dissatisfied Patients
When looking at the cost of a complaint, consider hard costs as well as soft costs. Hard costs include staff time to resolve issues and replacements (a different meal, etc.) Soft costs can be much more costly. For example, consider a patient that shares a bad experience on social media. That share can result in additional hard costs, including loss of future revenue from patients who don’t return or prospective patients that never make appointments after reading poor online reviews.
In Lauren’s case, her loss of trust was significant because she was repeatedly disappointed by staff who didn’t respond or follow through on little things that all added up. Lauren happens to be an influencer whose word carries clout with community leaders. In addition, Lauren is a philanthropist who has donated substantial money to the foundation of the hospital. You can see how the hard costs of failed service can keep adding up here.
Finding the Root Cause
Listening to Lauren, I couldn’t help thinking that every single irritation she described could have been prevented by simply listening. In each situation, staff could have apologized and immediately corrected the situation. But, from what she described, they simply didn’t know what to do or how to solve simple problems for dissatisfied patients.
Hard and soft costs can add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost revenue. Because of this, it’s critical to ensure that your team members know how to do effective service recovery. Does staff know how to handle an upset patient? Have you given clear permission for them to act? A service recovery culture won’t happen by default. Consequently, leaders must work to put together a well-crafted service recovery plan.
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