Exploring ways to improve healthcare service delivery – The first in a three-part series.
As health care professionals, pharmacists have a unique and important role that is multifaceted and ever changing. Every year our scope of practice grows, therapeutic approaches in clinical care evolves, and we face new business pressures – like the impact COVID has had. Online and virtual care services are now a norm, and we want to provide the best possible customer service and patient care in these new territories as well.
With that in mind, Gotodoctor.ca recently conducted both qualitative and quantitative research in Ontario and Manitoba. The research was specifically designed to compare and contrast online, traditional, retail, and health-care experiences to better understand perceptions of great customer experiences. Our goal was to get insights into what customers and patients really appreciates and incorporate those findings in order to continue to improve our service.
The research was conducted in two parts with questions covering a broad range of online and traditional services. The questions explored various habits, practices, usage frequency, and perceptions.
First, the quantitative survey component was completed online by a representative sample of 187 people across Ontario and Manitoba. Second, ten respondents in Ontario participated in an hour-long individual interview. A small honorarium was provided to participants of the qualitative research because of their time investment.
Through the research we explored great customer experiences the respondents had and what made those experiences stand out. What we learned was both surprising and interesting.
#1 Solve Their Problem(s) – this was more important than all other characteristics of customer service
Respondents had examples of great customer service across many different areas, everything from luxury retailers, online grocery, and online retailers to airline, transportation, and hair salons. Although these are all wide-ranging, when identifying the top characteristic for great customer service was that that their problem was solved.
Having their problems solved without a fuss was the most important thing. To our surprise, this was ranked much higher, and by more participants, than the customer service measures that we would traditionally expect. This included things like efficiency, communication or even friendliness.
This is not to say other “traditional” customer service measures are not important, but the first thing to keep in mind is to help our patients to solve their problems. Whether this is a prescription refill, delivery, headache or UTI they are suffering from, or a referral, we will not be providing great service if we do not help solve their problem.
Similarly, when a mistake happened, or something was not right, having this resolved without issue was something respondents really valued. This was consistent regardless of the service or product. The recognition and acknowledgement that something was wrong, and then quickly resolving the issue or problem was associated with a great customer experience.
#2 Go Above & Beyond – once their main problem is resolved.
Great customer service requires us to first solve their problems, and the second most important characteristic was going above and beyond to address customer needs. Respondents had many examples of people going the extra mile, above what would normally be expected, to help them.
This willingness to do more than what was normally expected really has an impact. There were many positive comments about people who worked extra hard to meet the needs of the customer, and this was both appreciated and highly valued.
Respondents cited examples like a tourist who got on the wrong bus and the bus driver got off the bus and flagged down the right one in order to ensure they got where they were supposed to go. In another example a waiter not only corrected a food order mix up during a special occasion, but also brought desert for the whole table. Another person spoke of a customer service rep for an online retailer who sought out and contacted a product manufacturer to request custom work.
Within pharmacy, there are many examples of staff putting in extra effort to ensure their patients and customers are looked after. This could be staying open a little longer to allow someone to pick up their medications, it could be a special delivery of medications after the store is closed, or it could be working with an insurance provider, or physician, to ensure the patient is taken care of.
In many cases, patients may not understand all the extra effort that was put into serving them. When they understand the over and above effort you put in to help them, they appreciate the extra care and attention. Once they recognize you have gone above and beyond to address their needs, both their loyalty and satisfaction grows.
#3 Provide Personalized Attention – so they know you care.
In a world where everyone is busy and rushing from one thing to another, receiving personalized attention really stands out. Respondents commented on how valuable it was to feel seen and heard, and to receive attention that was unique to their needs.
Psychologically, being seen and heard reflects being accepted and feeling like you matter. For customers, especially during these stressful times, that makes a big difference. Receiving personalized care and attention makes customers and patients feel valued, and not just a “number” or anonymous.
How we deliver that personalized attention and care will be dependent on the situation. However, this does not need to be complex or time consuming. A luxury car service agent that recognizes your license plate and appointment time, and addresses you by name, before registering you; or a hair stylist who remembers a conversation you had and asks you about it at the next appointment, will make you feel great.
We can give our patients, and customers, personalized attention in many different ways. For example, instead of a generic “Dear patient” invitation to the next virtual health webinar, sending a personalized email or letter with their name can make a big difference. Additionally, taking the time, and making the effort, to pay attention to their personal circumstances helps us to see our customers and patients as people. These actions can go a long way in providing personalization which can help drive both retention and business growth.
As you can see from the chart, there are a number of other characteristics that were important, but it was problem-solving, going above and beyond, and providing personalized attention that were the top three characteristics. More importantly, the fact that the traditional customer measures that we believed were important competitive drivers, like selection and value, along with the others we mentioned earlier, were comparatively far lower down the list.
We, as healthcare providers, have limited resources and time, so need to focus on what’s most important to our patients. Going through these insights has helped the gotodoctor.ca team ensure we keep these characteristics top of mind when serving our patients. We will also be able utilize these insights to create strategies to provide our patients with the best possible customer experience.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on what you think helps deliver a great customer experience, share it with us at: [email protected]
In the next article in this series, we will share the unique aspects of online ride sharing and food delivery that health-care professionals can gain insights from to help continue to deliver and improve the patient experience. Stay tuned!