Customer Dis-service: When Great Medical Care Isn’t Enough

Quick, if someone were to ask you what sort of services your practice provides, what would you say?

Cosmetic services? Aesthetic services? A variety of services for the skin, face and body?

Chances are you wouldn’t say “customer service.” And yet, the fact is that customer service plays an increasingly important role in determining how patients — current or potential — feel about your practice.

Consider the story of the RealSelf user who wanted to enhance her breasts from a 32B to a small D or full C. Three months after her surgery, here’s how she described her experience:

Pros: Did a good job, quick. Lots of availability, reasonably priced, great location

Cons: Rude and unqualified staff members, impersonal, no contact from the doctor following surgery, no Vicodin, rushed out of recovery room

And the kicker: Overall, I’m happy with my breasts. I’m a 34DD at Victoria’s Secret now. But for the service I received, I might as well have gone to Tijuana.

Ouch!

While such reviews are  rare, they reflect some of the larger trends that are rapidly redefining the delivery of healthcare in the 21st century:

There are, of course, any number of practical tactics you can use to provide a better customer service experience: An inviting waiting room, a warm welcome from your front desk staff, a commitment to good follow-up communication, etc.

But, ultimately, such efforts are just that — tactics — when what really makes for great customer-service experiences is incorporating them into a comprehensive strategy that shows patients that you truly value them. In the words of the Seattle-based King County Medical Society, every interaction should demonstrate that you and your practice are committed to:

  • Showing compassion, e.g., caring, not just care
  • Providing a safe environment
  • Building trust
  • Engaging the patient in the treatment process
  • Respecting the patient’s time
  • Providing value-added services

Providing all of the above and top-notch medical care takes work but it’s crucial and, arguably, nowhere more so than in the world of elective cosmetic surgery. Faced with a multitude of options, commonly dealing with emotional concerns, and often considering procedures that require follow-up services, aesthetic patients truly are healthcare consumers. As such, and as the RealSelf user above clearly shows, customer service plays a powerful role in whether they’re satisfied ones or not.

As James Merlino, MD, president and founder of the Association for Patient Experience, puts it,

Customer service in the healthcare industry is an idea whose time has come — and it deserves serious attention… It’s up to us to deliver it so we not only deliver the best possible care, but so that in return we are given something that every business covets: satisfied and repeat customers.

About Rob Lovitt

Rob Lovitt is a longtime writer and editor who believes every good business has a great story to tell. He has written for dozens of magazines and websites, including NBCnews.com, Expedia.com and the inflight magazines of Alaska, Horizon and Frontier airlines.

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