With healthcare never too far away from the headlines, it's hardly surprising that national attention has shifted towards customer service standards within the sector.You don't have to look far to find scandal on excessive waiting times or procedures being cancelled, but should customer service really be a priority for the profession?
It could be argued that the nation's doctors and nurses are providing a service, which therefore requires them to offer a certain level of courtesy and compassion. But would this be a distraction to providing care with the speed and accuracy the public has come to expect?
Customer service is not something any organisation can fail to overlook, regardless of whether it's in the public or private sector. Providing a better service should be high on the agenda for the medical profession, and these strategies could help you move towards this goal.
It's not enough for primary caregivers to be the ones providing top quality customer service, it needs to run right through every aspect of your healthcare facility. From the receptionist working on the front desk to the pharmacist responsible for putting together prescriptions, making sure you adopt a holistic approach to customer service is the only way for it to be truly effective.
All it takes is for one person to be slightly discourteous and it has a negative impact on a patient's impression of the entire organisation. If customer service is going to be prioritised, it's imperative to make it a collective effort.
Staff need to make sure they have the right attitude towards their job. Failing to do this will only make it difficult for them to be effective in their role, which will ultimately impact the quality of care given to your patients.
Adopting a positive, can-do attitude when dealing with the public is essential, not least because it will give them confidence in the service you are providing. Empathy plays a major part in this, as it puts your patients' minds at ease and shows you are running a professional operation.
One issue that you might have come across time and time again in the healthcare sector is not being able to access the data you need. Although records are generally held in one central database, you might find it isn't always available when you need it.
The same goes for any internal memos your staff might need to improve the quality of the service they provide to patients. Being able to access a single system where all information is held can streamline processes and ultimately boost your customer service offering.
A major source of frustration for people in the healthcare system is that they are never too sure who they should be dealing with. This can largely be overcome if you give them a primary point of contact who they can speak to about any concerns.
This might be someone in patient advice and liaison services, or another named individual who they can deal with directly. This eliminates some of the frustration associated with being passed from department to department when trying to get answers or information.
People like to feel like they have a purpose in their role, rather than just simply turning up to work each day to fulfil a specific set of tasks. If you allow them to feel like they're a part of something much more important, chances are they will be naturally more inclined to offer better customer service.
Sometimes it is necessary to exceed expectations in order to get the job done – and your employees should be encouraged to do this. Patients will remember the person who went the extra mile just as much as they will the individual who gave them poor customer service.
There is nothing more stressful than waiting for test results, or turning up for an appointment only to find there's a considerable delay. One way in which you can really improve the sector's image is to reduce these waiting times and work in line with people's expectations.
It's also worthwhile thinking about how to deal with disgruntled patients. Being able to offer a reason for the hold-up is more likely to pacify them than simply expecting them to accept it.
Healthcare requires a level of compassion that isn't often quite as necessary in many other professions. After all, you are dealing with people at some of the most stressful and vulnerable times of their lives, so it pays to be sympathetic.
It's important to see the job as more than just a means of earning enough money to pay the bills. Showing a little humility can go a long way, and ultimately improve the standard of the customer service you are providing. After all, the wrong mentality can show all too easily, and extensive training can help staff identify the right responses for any given situation.