There is no tougher customer service/experience challenge than that of health care professionals. Hospitals; doctors; entire medical support staff – every patient judges the entire operation on the worst customer experience moment/interaction in the entire experience. After all, (from the book Service Fanatics):
This may be our most obvious study finding, as well as one of the most obvious facts in healthcare. No one wants to be our customer. Equally important to the point that no one wants to be in the hospital or visit a healthcare provider is that no one wants to come back.
I recently presented a synopsis of Service Fanatics: How to Build Superior Patient Experience the Cleveland Clinic Way by James Merlino, MD (New York: McGraw Hill Education, 2015) for a top-notch medical practice here in the Dallas area. Side note: this is a medical practice that truly excels at the patient experience. It seems that they already do everything suggested by and even hinted at by Dr. Merlino in this book. Why are they so good? They keep raising the bar, and never letting the bar slip, in their quest to provide a fully attentive patient/customer experience. They pay attention to every detail, every moment, every interaction.
Dr. Merlino knows something about this challenge.
JAMES MERLINO, MD, is the Chief Experience Officer of the Cleveland Clinic Health System and is a practicing colorectal surgeon in the Digestive Disease Institute. He is the founder and current president of the Association for Patient Experience and is a recognized world thought leader in the emerging field of patient experience. In 2013, HealthLeaders magazine named him one of “20 People Who Make Healthcare Better.”
The book is filled with specific findings, and then solutions to the problems discussed. I wrote this on my synopsis handout as reason #2 on “Why is this book worth our time?”
This book reminds us that everything matters. Call it process; call it design thinking; but every single interaction (“touch point”) matters to the patient (customer).
And, though a bell curve distribution is everywhere present in business, there is one place where there is no bell curve allowed. Again, from the book:
Some might contend that it’s acceptable for customer experiences to follow a typical bell-shaped distribution, with some terrible, most good, and a few extraordinary. In healthcare, however, the way we treat our customers—patients—should not be arrayed on a bell curve. We cannot accept anything less than the consistent delivery of safe, high-quality, compassionate, and empathetic care. Who would want to be the patient or family at the bottom of a bell-shaped experience curve?
Here are my eight lessons and takeaways from Service Fanatics:
- Give your full attention to the patient, at each step of the designed process, and in each and every “touch point” (interaction). The book describes this as a “process,” a well-designed, nothing – not one moment — left out of the well-designed, and then well-executed process).
- “Honest and demanding” can still be great, and certainly needed, customer/patient experience.
- But… you have to become a very good “explainer…” (patients want, and really need, to understand – everything).
- Try little tests.
- Remember the “Rule of 17” – it takes 17 “repetitions of a message” for a person to finally get it… (The “Rule of 17” is not in the book, but the principle of repeating key messages, especially to all on the team, is clearly and strongly emphasized).
- And remember, each patient is different… Your job is to discern the differences – LISTEN REALLY WELL!!! – and respond to that patient in that moment.
- And, remember, let there be no weak links in the team. (Coach yourself; coach one another – all for the sake of the patient experience!)
- And, remember, what really matters to that patient is knowing, and knowing fast… (knowing what they are so anxious to know).
If you are in the health care arena, I would call this a must-read book. If you are in the customer service arena – and, you are – this is a great “how to design a superior customer experience” book.
(Note: I presented this to a private client, not at our monthly First Friday Book Synopsis event. But, in a few weeks, I will record my presentation, and put it up on our 15minutebusinessbooks site. Give me a few weeks).
Professional Speaker & Writer
Co-founder, First Friday Book Synopsis