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Customer Experience in healthcare industry

Breaking the 6 CX Laws – A healthcare nightmare

Divya BhatDivya Bhat | May 3, 2016

No other industry calls for an impeccable customer experience as much as the Healthcare industry does. It is mandatory to establish this right at the start. And we don’t say this just like that. As CEM industry experts, we have gathered sufficient data to assure us that this is true. This finding from the Health Research Institute (HRI) of PwC US (on Customer Experience in Healthcare) sets the tone perfectly:

Personal experience is the top reason for choosing a doctor or hospital, and it’s more than two and a half times more important than to consumers in other industries.

Staring you in the eye is this data which supports the argument that a customer’s personal experience with your hospital will directly reflect upon not only customer retention, but also customer acquisition and profitability. Therefore, being an industry laggard will only spell doom for you unless you make customer experience a part of your organization’s primary goal and culture.

On a side note (for now): If you’ve been interested in Customer Experience over the years, you have probably heard of the 6 LAWS OF CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE as proposed by the Temkin Group. This set of 6 laws captures the exact essence of CX, in a nutshell.

Here’s a sneak peek into it.

Video by Temkin Group

My Personal Experience

For reasons I cannot verbalize, I’ve never really liked hospitals – never liked visiting friends or family admitted to one or being admitted to one myself. The experience has always been a downer for me. Perhaps with the single exception of the birth of my nephew, hospitals have always made me glum. But a certain incident that occurred a few weeks ago has changed my perception about hospitals. For the worse. This is what happened…

One of my closest friends called me one day and a few seconds into the call I figured something was utterly wrong. She told me her mum was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer. She sent me a copy of the reports and requested me to check with my oncologist-friend in the US to see if it were actually true. She hoped it was all a horrible joke and wished that from thousands of miles away my friend would comfort her with some good news that it wasn’t cancer. But he didn’t and, in fact, it was far worse than what she had been told. Her mum was admitted to a certain Super Specialty Hospital in one of the biggest cities in the country in the hope that they would do all that they can and more to fight the C-beast and get her back home safe and healthy again. Little did they know then that it was just the beginning of a nightmare.

As I closely followed the case, virtually, I could not believe that a sector as crucial and profitable as Healthcare was as excruciatingly backward when it came to treating their patients right. And as someone championing the cause of Customer Experience, I felt more helpless than frustrated.

Within just a couple of weeks into the treatment, I observed that the Hospital in question had blatantly flouted each one of the 6 Customer Experience Laws and here’s how:

CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE LAW #1

Every interaction creates a personal reaction:

What the law means: The first law of customer experience speaks of how every customer is different from the next. Hence, the interaction that a brand has with its customer has to be personalised to that particular customer, exclusively. While this may seem like a tad bit too much of an effort, it actually isn’t. All you have to do is take one step closer towards the customer to understand what he or she is like. Perception is the keyword.

How the rule was broken: The hospital staff, from the Oncologist to the nursing staff, refused to keep the family abreast with the developments of the case. It is true that some families/patients like to trust medical professionals to do their job without asking for constant updates, but even in such a case the families deserve to be kept in the loop. Making insensitive statements like “We’re busy. We cannot update you on this now ” or generic ones like “We’re doing what we can” are in no way telling the family that they are in safe hands.

How it could have been avoided: It wouldn’t take a genius to guess that they are a close-knit family given that they spent every hour of the day hovering around the hospital from the first day. The doctors could have spent a few minutes a day giving genuine, personal attention to them and telling them what the situation is and how they plan to handle it. Understanding your patients’ family is as important as the patient himself, because their anticipation can never be understated. Be sensitive to them too.

CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE LAW #2

People are instinctively self-centered:

What the law means: Simply put, this law suggests that empathy is not natural for everyone. We tend to think of situations and react to them as per our perception of it. Whereas, in Customer Experience, empathy is crucial. You will always have to be in touch with what your customers think and need in order to delight them. You will have to address the issue from their point of view and not from your own.

How the rule was broken: The patient was not offered any palliative counselling at the hospital. Truth is that a lot of hospitals and healthcare units are not equipped with professional counsellors to address the fears and worries of the patients and the families and this was one of those cases.

How it could have been avoided: Start with asking yourself the question “How would I like to be treated if I were the patient? ”. And if you wouldn’t like to be kept in the dark, make sure the other person is not kept in the dark either. Something as intimidating as cancer can scare the living lights of even the most courageous person. By offering counselling you are not only boosting the morale of the patient and the family, you are also letting the patient and the family know that you are there to guide them through this traumatic experience.

CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE LAW #3

Customer familiarity breeds alignment:

What the law means: The third law of CX explains how differing perception of ‘customers’ among the different teams of an organisation can affect customer experience. A common, shared understanding leads not only to a smoother customer journey but also to a better internal structure.

How the rule was broken: There was absolutely no handover from one doctor to another as and when the shifts were over. At times, the doctors barely even knew the name & case history of the patient, and neither did the junior doctors and nurses assisting him on rounds. This is not just negligence but also a complete breach of customer-familiarity.

How it could have been avoided: One would imagine this to be one of the basic lessons at med school – familiarize yourself with the case before stepping foot into the patient’s room. Following it is all it would have taken to avoid all that awkwardness! While it is true that a hospital sees hundreds of patients every week, it is also true that every one of them enters the premises with just as much hope and trust! Make it a part of your culture to familiarize yourself with the patients.

CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE LAW #4

Unengaged employees don’t create engaged customers:

What the law means: This is one of the most important laws of customer experience, about which we have spoken in detail here. Unengaged and unhappy hospital staff can never delight a troubled patient whereas an employee who is fully happy with his work and workplace will always make sure the patient feels nothing short of special.

How the rule was broken: While the non-medical staff took absolutely no interest in making sure that the patient was attended to promptly in case of an emergency, the doctors made things worse by not even being present in the hospital premises during one such emergency. The irony being that for well over 2 hours, there wasn’t a single oncologist present in a hospital specialising in Oncology – meant only for cancer patients!

How it could have been avoided: If the medical and non-medical staff were all in tandem when it came to treating the patient sincerely, there would never be a case of the missing doctor/staff. This is not a cause, but a consequence of there being no engagement policy in place. When a single doctor manages three floors for 12+ hours, he is of course overburdened and overwhelmed! The fact that he is a doctor doesn’t take away the fact that he too could be fatigued! Making sure every single employee is happy working for the organization will transform the way you perceive the science of customer experience!

CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE LAW #5

Employees do what is measured, incented, and celebrated:

What the law means: Tracking key metrics, incentivizing certain activities and celebrating even the smallest of achievements are some of the things that drive an employee. Without metrics there is no growth, without incentives there is no motivation and without celebration there can never be a sense of achievement for the employees. By making sure these three key elements are part of your corporate set up, you can quantify the employee’s contribution and growth thereby making him more active and engaged within the organization.

How the rule was broken: While this law certainly deals with an intra-organizational issue, it did reflect via the employees’ actions that this law was clearly being flouted. Had the employees been incentivized for ‘good behaviour’ and had their little achievements been recognized and celebrated, none of the patients would ever have had to feel the urge to shift to a better, more organized hospital due to the sheer negligence. Imagine being admitted to a hospital diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer, informed that your chances of survival are bleak by a leading oncologist and getting absolutely no updates for a week after that. If that is not negligence, then what is?

How it could have been avoided: By making sure employees are not just
expected ” to do the right thing. Define the right thing to do by putting the patient’s/customer’s experience as the focal point. Don’t give ambiguous suggestions; demarcate explicitly what is good behaviour which will be incentivized and rewarded and what behaviour is unacceptable and could have dire consequences. Take charge to create an environment of customer centricity.

CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE LAW #6

You can’t fake it:

What the law means: Perhaps the most self-explanatory of all the laws. Customer experience is something so fundamental to business that no amount of monetary effort can bring you the same result as genuinely being immersed in a culture of CX. You simply cannot fake a smile just like you cannot fake a frown. If your irate customer is greeted by someone who fakes empathy, that will most definitely make things worse. Customer centricity has to be genuine. Always.

How the rule was broken: Getting the fundamentals right is where it all begins! You cannot expect the doctor to walk into the patient’s room and greet her by the wrong name and then at the end of it all hand over the case to another doctor who isn’t very different from the previous. The hospital promptly sends in fresh flowers in the morning but that just seems like such a mechanical attempt at customer experience. If the patient’s wellbeing was genuinely at the heart of their principles, they would not have compromised so heavily!

How it could have been avoided: By implementing a solid, reliable customer experience management software that gives you access to what your customers as well as your employees think of you. For an organization to run seamlessly, having a common interest across teams/departments is crucial and this is where customer centricity pays. By investing in a CEM system, the hospital gets a chance to embrace and be receptive to patient feedback, taking timely and relevant actions whenever and wherever required. Moreover, each step taken towards customer centricity is likely to result in happy patients going home feeling like their woes were attended to in the best possible manner.

We’ve seen a lot of healthcare institutions hit the limelight for the wrong reasons in the recent past. Given how high the stakes are in the healthcare industry, we cannot reiterate the benefits of having a customer-centric culture in this context. The only way forward now is to re-humanize the purpose of hospitals with the best Customer Experience Management software and rediscover the right way of extending hospitality and delighting the patient, ehh, customer!