All Businesses are in the Customer Service Business

Have you ever had a customer experience that makes you feel like you’ve been dropped into a black hole on Groundhog’s Day? You continue to get looped through the same menus through an interactive voice response (IVR) system and end up in the same holding pattern? The struggle was all too real for me recently as I tried to contact my Primary Care Physician’s office. This doctor’s office, with 3 doctors, is not huge, but it’s not small either – like Goldilocks prefers, its right in the middle, and just right for me.

The Struggle

The objective seemed simple, call the doctor’s office for a referral.

Contact Attempt #1: When I selected option four to speak with the referral team, I experienced a few seconds of ringing before I was routed to another menu that no longer offered the option for the referral team, and only listed other options that didn’t fit my need. So like any frustrated consumer, I zeroed out, and decided to wait on hold. After five minutes on hold, the IVR provided me the option to leave a voicemail that would be returned within 24 hours.

Contact Attempt #2: After four days of not receiving a call back from the doctor’s office, I decided to attempt contact again. After the same frustrating looping and IVR confusion, I was offered a voicemail option again. After 35 minutes on hold, I had to jump on a conference call, so I once again left a voicemail.

Contact Attempts #3-?: Fast forward 2 weeks, three more failed phone contact attempts, and a physical visit to the doctor’s office where I nicely insisted that I speak with the young lady that managed referrals. At week 3.5, I finally had my referral after more phone conversations and following up every day.

The Struggle Dissected

The most salient and painful aspect of this experience was the poorly executed IVR. However, this was coupled with additional factors:

  • They believe they are in the healthcare business, not the customer service business. When you ask a medical professional what they do, they naturally focus on the clinical component of their job function. Saving lives is a big deal! However, whether they realize it or not, they are most definitely in the customer service business as well. From bedside manner to the ease of communicating with the office, the patient experience should be viewed as customer experience. Which leads me to the next issue…

  • They believe they have a captive audience. Many medical practices believe they have a captive audience of patients. However, gone are the days where patients stick with the same doctor for a lifetime. Today patients have an array of healthcare options, including urgent cares, walk-in clinics, and virtual doctor’s visits which deliver an easy and painless patient experience, and it’s easy to switch.If traditional brick-and-mortar healthcare providers do not differentiate themselves from their competition they will lose patients. With the current uncertainty in the healthcare industry it is hard enough for practices to maintain profitability – so they need to hold on to every patient they can!Practices need to dedicate time and resources to defining and delivering on a customer service experience that combines clearly defined processes, and knowledgeable, responsive, and attentive staff.

  • They believe since they are “small” that they don’t need technology to support customer experience. While the practice does have an IVR, it was extremely poorly executed and delivered a frustrating experience. I was left to assume that they are using a basic, out of the box IVR that lacks the robust features and functionality readily available today. Advanced ACD and IVR products could have greatly improved my customer experience. Just a few include a virtual hold automated callback experience, voicemail routing that ensures voicemails are returned, and robust reporting on hold times, abandons, and much more to understand and improve upon the customer experience. The cloud revolution ensures that organizations can deliver great customer service regardless of size. That being said, small businesses need to adopt the appropriate technology to stay competitive in the market.

Lessons learned

Now, I’m not sharing this experience with you to just vent and complain. That is what I pay my therapist for! Rather, I share my dismal experience with you because of the key lessons learned from the experience. Perhaps you work in a medical practice today and have never truly reflected on your patient experience before. It is never too late to make a change and embrace your role as a “health AND customer service provider” in order to heal AND delight your customers for years to come!