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Inconsistent Customer Service Can Sink Your Hospital’s Reputation

July 30, 2015
Customer Service, Strategy

We all know there are differences in service and quality levels between different medical institutions in a given market and even within the same healthcare system. Some of us have US News and World Report rankings, some of us are certified by the Joint Commission, others are Magnet recognized – the list goes on and on.   We work every day, lose sleep, and spend millions of dollars to make our institutions the best they can be and to differentiate ourselves from the competition.   

What happens, though, when you have a single hospital throughout which the service levels and quality scores differ? More importantly, what happens when the perceived service and quality levels are different?

The average individual understands that different service lines are going to be different from one another, and that doctors/nurses differ as well, but in the end, consumers expect that within a single hospital, they will receive similar service and quality from department to department, floor to floor.

But what happens if they don’t experience this expected consistency?

I have had a few recent first-hand experiences where consistency was nowhere to be found. After spending much time at a local hospital visiting a loved one, it seemed that Floor 4 East (4E) was an entirely different entity than Floor 4 West (4W). They both specialize in the same area, are right across the hall from one another, and definitely have the same resources available to them… so why were they so different?

4E is somewhere I would recommend to family and friends in a heartbeat; 4W is a place I wouldn’t wish on my enemy. 4E has friendly, considerate, helpful nurses and staff, while in 4W I found workers who were cold, lax in their care and downright rude.

Until we had the opportunity to experience 4E, I sat in 4W telling everyone I knew, through word-of-mouth, social media, etc., how terrible the hospital was. Not how bad the care on 4W was – I was telling them how bad the care was at the HOSPITAL as a whole. 4W was all I knew and I assumed that the rest of the hospital was the same way.  And imagine how many other people like me have been complaining about the hospital because of their experiences in 4W.

Which is where we run into our issue of service consistency. Can one single floor bring your whole hospital down? If a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, a hospital is only as strong as its weakest service line, patient floor, customer service representative, etc.

Achieving Consistent Customer Service Quality

In his article, “How to Achieve Consistent Quality and Service Delivery at Every Level of Your Organization,” consultant Mac McIntire explains the importance of consistent service:

“The strength of customer loyalty is in direct proportion to the confidence they feel regarding how well you will consistently deliver on your service promise.”

His model for delivering consistent service, begins with recognizing what customers want then “guaranteeing” that they’ll receive it at every interaction with your organization. He outlines ways to train employees and establish policies and practices that ensure they honor your guarantee.

McIntire’s first step is to recognize the product you’re offering – and it’s often not what you think it is. Hospitals are not offering just medical care: procedures, diagnostic tests, etc. What hospitals are really offering their patients is wellbeing, and that includes a huge emotional component as well as improved health. In a clinician’s mind, how the patient is treated emotionally might be much less important than how effective the medical care is – but that’s not the case in the patient’s mind. And we all know that stress slows healing and how patient satisfaction scores influence Medicare reimbursements.

Back in my local hospital, Floor 4E is delivering wellbeing: great clinical care and great service. Floor 4W is not. The caregivers in 4W are not bad people, but they are most likely poorly managed by their supervisors and are not working within a system that enables and ensures that they provide good customer service consistently.

Do you have a Floor 4W in one or more of your hospitals? Are you willing to let it drag down the reputation of your entire system?

Read the article to see how to set and maintain standards of service that deliver what patients want.

Pam Doerflinger

Pam is an Healthcare Marketing Strategist at BPD. She works closely with both our clients and our internal team to ensure we deliver the best possible strategy and/or creative solutions. She previously worked for a large advertising agency, but believes the personal accountability and dedication that goes into each client and each project really separates BPD from the rest.

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