Understanding the importance of the ‘customer’ in modern healthcare

There are quite a lot of times when customers get annoyed and frustrated waiting for the customer care person to answer their queries. Customers face the same frustration when they visit a shop; either the sales person is busy, not available, not cooperative or simply reluctant. In such situations the customer decreases the frequency of visit to the shop after few initial visits. Due to this the management might lose its valuable customers one by one. After all “Customers are the management’s business”, without customers the management might fail to exist. In such situations the role of customer service or Customer Experience Management (CEM) is unavoidable, which helps to retain the customers.

The above mentioned applies for healthcare industry also as it is one of the rapidly developing sectors. In healthcare sector patients are the customers, they are the consumers of healthcare services and not a mere person with some ailments. Similar to CEM, Patient Experience Management (PEM) is applied to healthcare industry. If asked a CEO of a healthcare organization, some 15 years ago, about customer/patient experience management they would wonder what these terms are and what they represent. But it is not the case anymore; patient experience management is no more a soft data but a hard reality that tops the priority list of healthcare centers worldwide.

By managing the experience of a customer from the very first contact the management will help a satisfied customer to become a loyal customer and then a brand advocate or promoter. Customer satisfaction and relationship management are very important for an overall development and success of an organization. They are the key promoters playing crucial role as a determining factor in transforming a simple customer to advocates who would not only continue to use the services but also recommend it to others. Many healthcare centers have realized the need and importance to know more about their current and future customers.

If customers are not satisfied with the care and services they receive at a healthcare center, they will not bother to come back no matter how good the clinical outcome is. In addition, the customers will not recommend that particular healthcare center to others and will tell everyone how bad they felt during their visit. The more efficient service the healthcare center provides the further they will go in retaining the customers. Customer experience will determine the success of a business in long run. A mere change in the administration and business process does not help to deliver superior customer experience; it requires customer focussed management called Patient/customer experience management.

Financial implications of poor Patient Experience

It is a known fact that financial performance, safety, and quality still occupy the top of priority list of healthcare center. But fortunately, many healthcare centers are now realizing that patient experience has a significant role in improving all the above mentioned priorities. For future business sustainability today’s healthcare center need to provide positive customer experience in offering quality products and services to its customers. High quality healthcare service is recognized as a core driver of corporate marketing and financial performance. Quality service is directly linked to profit, increased market share and savings. The customer’s experience in a healthcare center affects the way the local community perceives the healthcare center and this reflects how well the business is running. The revenue improvement of a healthcare center should be viewed from patient’s perspective.

Financial performance of any healthcare center is a patient driven factor and its improvement completely depends on patient’s experience. Even a single negative experience matters because though the customer might have had many previous positive experiences with the healthcare center than negatives, the later always makes a deep long-lasting impact in the customers mind. This means that every single experience counts and a single negative experience results in negative marketing. Customers keep changing or choose their providers/healthcare center depending on their previous experience. The quality of relationship shown by the healthcare center is the major predictor of patient’s loyalty. Making sure that the customers are happy and satisfied really makes a big difference, than the management realizes, on the financial outcome of a healthcare center.

The center for Medicare and Medicaid services is considering including the results of PEM survey as a part of pay-for-performance program. To sustain in the current competitive market every healthcare center should ask themselves – What are we doing to deliver a positive experience to customers as our revenue depends on them? It would not be wrong to say that patient relationship or customer experience has become a business requirement.

Introduction to Patient Experience Management