Many organizations have one-off customer experience initiatives instead of creating a cohesive journey that leads to a broader strategy. Here’s how to create a more cohesive plan.
If a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, the same can be said about patients. The one you have today and keep is worth more than two you hope might make an appointment. The patient experience you provide ties directly to patient retention-or not.
Here’s advice from three customer experience experts.
1. Define what a holistic experience vision-the end game-really looks like
Consider what CEO David Feinberg did at Geisinger Health System in Pennsylvania, says Jeff Gourdji, partner and healthcare practice lead at Prophet, a global brand and marketing consultancy company. “Their consumer-centric vision of eliminating the waiting room and everything it represents set the stage for a series of bold moves. A vision alone doesn't mean anything. It must be the starting point,” says Gourdii, who is also co-author of “Making the Healthcare Shift: The Transformation to Consumer-Centricity.”
2.Build capabilities and ensure ownership and accountability
“Centralize and assign those responsible for owning the customer experience,” says Gourdji. “There's no single way to do this, but ask: Should it be a medical or clinical leader with major credibility in the industry? Or should it be a strategist or consumerist from outside? You can centralize or decentralize customer service, either under marketing, or maybe as a decentralized, stand-alone team.”
3.Identify quick wins to jumpstart momentum
Geisinger’s Feinberg flipped the switch with a disruptive tactic that jump-started the greater vision-“he guaranteed dissatisfied patients refunds of up to $2,000. A year later, only $500,000 in refunds had been processed-but yet the organization was galvanized and patient satisfaction scores increased measurably,” Gourdji says.
4.Drive system-ness across access points
Patients decide where and when to obtain care. “They behave like consumers of other products and services,” says Erin Jospe, MD, chief medical officer and senior vice president, account management at Kyruus. “Research shows that while most patients research providers online, 58% still prefer to book appointments by phone.”
Health systems must have accurate, comprehensive information about their provider networks, and must provide an excellent experience through all points of entry to their systems, according to Jospe. “That necessitates investment in patient experience across access points-call centers, web sites, and clinics-rather than focusing on the experience in any single lane.”
5. Expand access points to deliver care where and when patients want it
Consumers value timely and convenient access to care. For example, in a 2018 survey of 1,000 consumers, 84% rated appointment availability extremely or very important and 76% rated location extremely or very important. Similarly, over half had received care in retail clinics in the past year, with convenient location and speed of access the top-cited reasons.
“Health systems must explore opportunities to provide care in alternative, local settings-as many are doing-such as retail and urgent care clinics, in order to drive long-term patient retention,” Jospe says.
Job number one, according to Graham Hughes, MD, chief executive at Sutherland Healthcare, is to engage cross-functional teams in development of current and to-be “visual journey maps” of the entire patient experience.
“Bring real customers into the process too, to better understand higher priority pain points and opportunities to improve,” Hughes says. “This lays a foundation for the multi-year roadmap, the never-ending journey, as expectations, technology and processes evolve. Undertake this task in partnership with independent user experience professionals with a proven track record.”
7. Go beyond a single approach
Industries such as retail and entertainment figured out long ago that there is no such thing as “one size fits all.”
“There needs to be a handful of planned variations in the customer experience, based on customer archetypes, a.k.a. ‘personas’ that reflect customers with radically different preferences, needs and expectations,” says Hughes. “Knowing this, organizations delivering superb customer service can then determine how far to move into hyper-personalization achieved and refined through methods such as A-B testing, cluster analysis, predictive modeling, and more. Customer experience personalization has become more of a science than an art. Engage data scientists and design thinking experts to help on this journey.”