The Arc Of Customer Experience
Rx Dr. Knows Best
In an environment of “Dr. knows best”, where the customer is rarely right, what does Customer Centricity and Customer Experience really mean?
The very personal and often intimidating nature of the service and the very wide gap of knowledge that traditionally exists between the customer and the provider in healthcare often lead to a very unique perspective in which Experience in Hospitals has been viewed and practiced to date.
No dearth of Customers? One size will fit all anyway
Hospitals have traditionally taken a “one size fits all” approach to Customer Centricity with segmentation limited to simplistic groups, either by type of ailment ( cancer, cardiac, nephrology, etc) or mode of payment (Insurance vs. self) or worse demography.
Innovations in customer segmentation and consequent treatment to such segments need to be explored.
For example, patients who need chronic care are obviously quite different from somebody who has been bought for an emergency trauma need.
Chronic Care patients have more time on their hands to make a choice between hospitals. They are also more likely to be a continuous revenue stream whereas the trauma /critical or even specialized care needs patients do not have the reaction time to “compare and shop”, and their revenues across time are different.
To this, add the prevailing notion of inelastic demand and we have a fairly traditional take on Customer Centricity at Hospitals that is limited to smiling receptionists, arcane magazines and glass façades.
Some seek change, Hotels provide answers
There are Hospitals that have realized the need to go beyond the mere visuals. Such early movers on Customer Experience in Healthcare have looked at other industries for answers.
The Hospitality Industry is one such. It does indeed provide a good starting template. Hotels are ideal learning grounds for improvements on Personnel grooming, Housekeeping, Reception, Décor, SOPs on operational fulfillment and I am sure many similar areas.
However, these are all operational changes, not addressing the core issue at hand.
Anxiety vs. Happiness
There is a good reason why the Hospitality industry approach to Customer Experience has limitations when applied to Healthcare.
When a customer walks into a Hotel, s/he expects happiness, expects to have a good time, is ready and primed to be delighted (unless, of course, one is a food critic!). In short, the goal of good Customer Experience in a Hotel is doing all those things that “Enhance Happiness”.
Customers that check into a Hospital, by and large, on the other hand, expect anything but happiness. The overriding emotion of the Patient and relatives is one of extreme Anxiety.
The Experience ARC
Customers (and you may have noticed that I have been using Patient and Customer as interchangeable terms, this is by design) in Hospitals expect negation of Anxiety.
Anxiety results in very unique Needs and Frustrations. If left unaddressed, this can lead to significant customer unease and dissatisfaction.
Addressing these very unique Needs and Frustrations across all Touchpoints needs to be then the primary objective of any good Hospital Customer Experience strategy. Unless this is done, any attempt to “enhance happiness” will appear contrived and mere posturing.
The second most important need for a Patient is to treated with Respect
Patients are at their most vulnerable in a hospital and in this heightened emotional state, they expect not to be treated as another statistic or a “case”. They expect and demand respect, perhaps more so than is the case in any other industry.
The third important component is Caring. Patients need to see, hear and feel that they are Cared for. Caring- the most subtle of emotions and yet so important in this context.
Thus, a good Hospital Customer Experience Strategy would focus on what we call the Experience ARC:
Anxiety | Respect | Caring
Patients in the current environment are getting to be aware, access information when they need to, listen to their peers and most importantly do not wish to be treated as mere patients anymore. They want to be treated as partners in their experience with the Doctor and the Hospital.
This is perhaps a shift in current outlook, but this is how Hospitals can build sustainable profitable revenue streams whilst still being the torch bearers of Hope and Life they are meant to be.
Also read: Stress And Customer Response