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The Impact of Poor Customer Service in Healthcare: Why Training Matters

It’s hard to find someone who doesn’t have a nightmare healthcare story. In fact, when people get together and start sharing their experiences, it’s as if someone unleashed a game of “one-upmanship.” You hear people saying with empathy, ‘That sounds awful, but let me tell you what happened to my mom, it’s even worse.”

And so it goes.

Poor customer service in healthcare is nothing new. People have complained about wait times at doctor’s offices for decades. People have been frustrated with insurance claims and trying to decipher hospital bills since the last century. As a result, people have always felt helpless and sometimes resentful. But, for the most part, they kept it to themselves, friends, and family.

Today, in the post-Covid era, patients are not very patient.

What is different now, in the post-Covid era, is that patients are less patient. When people experience poor customer service, they are apt to let the staff know. Taking a verbal beating by patients impacts employee morale, which affects retention and the bottom line.

Until now, the healthcare industry has not had a strong incentive to fix its customer service issues. Their stock prices are strong. There is a steady stream of patients. If people believed they were getting high-quality health care, they would put up with a lot of inconveniences.

But today’s patient wants excellent healthcare plus great customer service, and they are not shy about letting everyone hear their thoughts. Unfortunately, while most healthcare groups know precisely what is needed to improve the customer experience, they feel powerless to do it in the face of employee shortages, the insurance company demands, and the need to see more patients in a day to hit their bottom line.

It is easy to feel hopeless, but healthcare organizations can significantly improve their customer service even with these vast barriers. But first, it’s essential to understand some of the root causes of the patient’s perception of poor customer service.

Lack of Communication

When healthcare providers fail to communicate clearly and effectively with patients and their families, it can lead to confusion, misunderstandings, and frustration. This lack of communication can be as significant as what time of day a procedure will be scheduled to letting the patient know what the current wait time is to see the physician.

Long Wait Times

This is the quintessential issue. While you may not be able to reduce the wait time, you can do things to curb the annoyance of your patients who have to wait. In a study of 5000 patients by the software provider Software Aware, 80 percent of patients said they would be less frustrated if they knew how long the wait would be, and 70% said an apology from the physician would go a long way to mending harsh feelings. In that same study, 41% of patients said they would be willing to see another doctor in the practice if it reduced their wait time.

Lack of Empathy

Patients and their families often require emotional support during their healthcare journey. Healthcare providers who lack empathy or show little concern for their patient’s well-being can cause additional stress and anxiety, leaving patients feeling neglected and unsupported.

Inadequate Information

Many discussions get lost in translation. Studies show that half of all patients walk out of their physicians’ offices unclear on what they were just told or are supposed to do unless they have taken notes or had someone with them. A trend that is helping alleviate the problem is to either encourage the patient to record the visit so they can listen to the details later or have the clinic record the visit and make it available to the patient.

The impact of these customer service issues can be costly. The ramifications of poor customer service are profound, from decreased patient satisfaction and lower staff morale to an increased risk of medical malpractice and poor patient outcomes.

Why Training Matters

Effective customer service training can equip healthcare providers with the skills, knowledge, and tools they need to provide exceptional customer service and to see customer service as an integral part of the entire healthcare experience. Here are some ways training can make a difference:

Improved Communication Skills

Customer service training can help healthcare providers to develop effective communication skills, enabling them to communicate more clearly and empathetically with patients and their families.

Increased Problem-Solving

Customer service training can help healthcare providers to communicate, commiserate and develop a process to reduce the nemesis of most healthcare practices. Better Information Management

Customer service training can help healthcare providers to manage medical information more effectively, providing patients with accurate and comprehensive information about their health status, treatment options, and aftercare.

Increased Staff Engagement

Customer Service training is not limited to how the staff interacts with patients. It’s also about how the staff interacts with staff. Powerful customer service training can increase staff engagement and motivation, leading to a more positive workplace culture, increased productivity, and reduced staff turnover.