Six Customer Experience Lessons Businesses Can Learn From The Healthcare Industry
by Shep Hyken
As I research and study different industries, I’m often surprised at how strategies in one industry can be identical in another. I recently participated in a Twitter “tweet chat” with VisitPay, a company that is creating an improved patient experience with better finance and payment solutions for the healthcare industry. The chat included 10 questions. If the questions didn’t include the word healthcare in them, most of them could have been appropriate for just about any industry. So, let’s dive into a few of the answers and comments and learn what we can from the way healthcare manages the customer—make that patient—experience.
Healthcare is competitive, just like any other business. Healthcare professionals have learned the importance of delivering an excellent patient experience. Their future business depends on it. While nobody wants to go to the hospital or visit a doctor because they are sick or need a procedure, the choices patients make are for competitive reasons. Why do they prefer one hospital over another, or one doctor over another? It’s for the same reasons why someone prefers one automobile manufacturer over another. Or one retail store over another. Typically, there are competitive reasons that have to do with quality, service and experience.
What follows are some of the main concepts from the tweet chat:
1. The product must work: Doctors or medical centers must do what they are supposed to do, which is to make people well. That’s a given. It’s like buying a car. You expect it to start when you put the key into the ignition.
2. Convenience is important: Disruption can occur in any industry when a competitor is easier to do business with. Healthcare is finding ways to be more convenient for its patients. Being able to check in and fill out paperwork before arriving at the hospital or the doctor’s office is starting to become the norm. To that point, VisitPay redesigned the financial experience. Its solution helps patients estimate costs and create payment plans in advance. All of these conveniences support the idea that when patients show up, they can focus on health and not administrative or financial issues.
3. Digital solutions are exploding in healthcare: The result is improved communication, better finance options, a more convenient process before and after the visit, and more. All this leads to improved patient satisfaction. The typical business needs to be thinking of what happens before, during and after the sale with its customers. That’s their experience. The entire experience, beginning to end, is often referred to as the customer journey. Find ways to incorporate digital solutions and automation, where appropriate, to enhance the overall customer experience.
4. Make paying easy: VisitPay surveyed more than 3,000 patients and found that over half wanted flexible payment terms. Industries such as retail furniture, automobile dealerships and other businesses that typically make financing available for their customers already know the benefit of flexible terms. But what about businesses that don’t offer that type of financing? That’s fine, but consider that customers still want options. That might mean flexible methods of payment, such as credit cards, PayPal, ACH, etc. Giving customers a choice of how they pay for what they want adds to the experience.
5. Patients want information, as do customers of any business: Today’s customers go to their phones, PCs and tablets for information and updates. Just as patients want to get their test results quickly and easily, customers of other businesses want the same. If you are shipping something to a customer, provide tracking information. Some companies have an app that customers log into to track progress of a project, what they ordered and more. Even pizza delivery chains have an app that informs customers when their pizza is coming out of the oven, out for delivery and more. And notice that these customers aren’t calling and asking to talk to someone to get the information. Customers are turning to technology before they reach out to a human.
Make it personal: Patients don’t want to feel like a number. They want to feel like they matter—that the people taking care of them really care. I’m often impressed by the compassion and empathy healthcare workers have for their patients. They have an uncanny ability to form an emotional connection with the patient. All businesses must recognize the power of that personal connection. For example, when a salesperson asks the right questions to understand what the customer wants. Or the customer service rep displays empathy and concern for a customer’s problem. Or a vendor cares so much about their customer’s success that they are seen as more of a partner. These are all examples of how you provide a personal experience.
In the end, most every business is the same. It could be healthcare, retail, manufacturing—it doesn’t matter. Whether you call your customers patients, guests, members, etc., they all want the same from anyone they do business with. The answers to the VisitPay tweet chat focused on healthcare remind all of us to give our customers what they want—reliability, convenience, information, choices, and to feel connected and cared for. Meeting these basic human needs is just good business in any industry.