Customer Service, Part II: What Customers Do When You Don’t Do Well

As previously noted, providing customer service that only qualifies as “good” is rarely enough to turn patients into repeat customers and brand advocates. For that, you need to provide outstanding customer service.

But while it’s easy enough to quibble about how many degrees of separation there are between good and outstanding, there’s no need to do the same at the other end of the customer-service spectrum. Whatever the level of a patient’s dissatisfaction, a bad customer experience will almost certainly make things worse for the practice that provided it.

Consider the results of this survey from Optus, which, among other things, asked 5,000 customers in 10 industries if they took any action after a customer-service experience. And while 59% said they did so after a good experience, far more (79%) did so after a bad one. Among the actions they took:

  • 46% told a friend, colleague or family member
  • 28% called to make a complaint
  • 23% researched or considered a competitor’s products and services
  • 13% completed a customer feedback survey
  • 13% wrote to make a complaint
  • 13% posted about their experience online
  • 10% used or switched to a competitor instead

The best way to avoid such scenarios is to develop a customer experience strategy that can serve as a roadmap for all customer service interactions. Among the elements it should include:

  • A baseline customer value proposition: How you can help them resolve their aesthetic concerns?
  • Key differentiating experiences: Why should they choose you and not another provider?
  • Channel analysis: How well does your team respond to customer inquiries and issues via phone, email, social media, etc.? Which channels are the most/least effective?
  • Pain points: What are the obstacles potential patients face when dealing with your practice and how can they be improved (i.e., how can you reduce friction)?

Alas, when it comes to developing a formal customer-service strategy, the Optus study found that the health industry is downright sickly. Just 34% of companies had a formal customer-service strategy in place, well below the survey average of 41%.

Why? Some of it may have to do with “optimism bias,” the mistaken belief some doctors have that their practice does a good job of managing customer experiences when the evidence demonstrates that they don’t, and some from the reality of working in a regulated industry and the fear of running afoul of privacy laws.

But the reality is that a customer-service strategy doesn’t exacerbate such issues; it counters them. Conducting regular comparisons of expected service levels with actual performance metrics mutes the tendency toward optimism bias and incorporating PII-protecting protocols gives employees a tool to ensure their patient interactions are HIPAA-compliant.

And that lays the groundwork for providing customer service that’s not just good but outstanding, which, in turn, is what generates repeat business and brand advocates. It’s a virtuous circle and it’s never too late to get it rolling.

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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