The intensely personal customer experience

I’ve been light around here this week, primarily because my dad had to have his prostate removed yesterday. The surgery went well, and the surgeon expects my dad to get a cancer-free report from the lab results next week — here’s hoping!

At Creekmore Consulting, we do quite a bit of work in the health care field, and some of our clients spend a lot of their time thinking about the patient experience. Statistically, it’s something people my age — late 30s — are less likely to have to think about, but it’s been on my mind a lot in the last year for personal reasons as well as professional, since I gave birth to my 1yo daughter last April, to my 11yo’s recent visit to the ER for stitches and now with my dad’s very recent diagnosis and hospitalization.

Any business can give you a great customer experience, from the hardware store to your cell phone provider to the dry cleaner. But we put up with a lot of shoddy service from many of our daily interactions, don’t we? Exceptional customer service is the rarity. I used to work in businesses where it was just as simple as comparing software like HubSpot vs Salesforce and weighing up the pros and cons when it came to finding ways of improving customer services and building stronger relationships with customers. As times change, businesses need to adapt to that too.

I’m wondering, though, about industries like health care. When every interaction with your customer is potentially intensely personal, how much more important does the customer experience become? What are the downsides of screwing up — not with a medical decision, but with some service aspect of the relationship? Is it worse for the long-term customer relationship if a hospital doesn’t treat its patients and their families with service and caring, than if a restaurant staff is rude to you? These are important questions for any business (regardless of the industry) should ask themselves. No wonder why some companies have found it easier/ beneficial to include personalized marketing within their strategy to build stronger customer relationships,.

It’s an interesting question to me. It’s awfully easy to stop patronizing a restaurant, isn’t it? But I stuck with the same pediatric practice for 10 years, despite many more incorrect bills than right ones, and a rude staff to boot, because I liked the doctor so much and I really trusted her. When you’re dealing with life and death issues, it just feels like the responsibility to provide exceptional service is higher, but I’m not sure how we measure the results of poor service coupled with excellent medical care.

While I have seen those two incongruent things go hand-in-hand before, I’m glad to report that my dad and our family were delighted with both the caring attention and the medical care he received at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. I do have to wonder if high-quality medical care also tends to reflect in the level of overall patient-centered attitude at a hospital. What do you think?

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