By Alex Bäcker, Ph.D.
In the age of ubiquitous smartphones, AI-powered chatbots and 24/7 connectivity, effective customer interaction in the healthcare vertical is taking on a different form. Welcome to the age of Digital Customer Interaction Management.
Virtual waitlists, flexible appointments, interactive communication, customized marketing, real-time user tracking and reporting – these are all required components for an effective interaction with healthcare patients in 2018.
The main reason is that every single touch point between an organization and its patients needs to be considered as an opportunity to delight, not only for retention, but also to encourage advocacy for the brand. If a patient has an unpleasant experience at a certain hospital or urgent care facility, they always have the option to go to different provider the next time they need medical attention.
From the help desk to the doctor’s office
Customer interaction management has historically been discussed in the context of selling (and post-sales calls) or call center and help desk interactions. But in today’s tech-driven, app-focused healthcare paradigm, a new model is emerging. Successful customer interaction management requires a strategic and multi-faceted approach. While well-trained, qualified employees are certainly at the heart of it, increasingly dedicated tools, AI-driven software, and cloud-based systems are facilitating the interaction between a healthcare organization and its patients.
One of the most important but often-overlooked aspects of customer interaction management in healthcare is the issue of waiting. Data has shown that using a virtual waitlist can reduce patient wait times from as long as 3 hours down to as little as 20 minutes. A recent survey conducted by a major healthcare provider determined that reduced wait times improved overall customer satisfaction an average of 20%. And we know that positive patient experiences contribute to improved overall rankings for hospitals and clinics with major implications for facility branding. This in turn translates directly to a facility’s ability to not only attract new patients and retain existing ones, but also to entice talented physicians to join their organization, ultimately supporting growth and innovation.
The emergence of virtual waitlists goes hand in hand with the evolving telemedicine space and certainly supports improved healthcare at a macro level. A virtual waitlist allows patients to wait where ever they want – at work, from the comfort of their home, or while running other errands. They are notified via text before their turn approaches so that they arrive just in time to be seen by a medical professional. Giving time-starved patients more control over their schedules is a major breakthrough already delivering results.
These evolving solutions are being designed to not only improve customer interaction, but to also make it easier for medical staff to be successful at their jobs as well. The goal is to empower every single worker to focus 100% of their capabilities on satisfying patients and providing the best care, and not to waste it on busy work or trivial activities that don’t deliver real value. Strategic customer interaction management can also help managers handle teams more effectively and as a result, deliver maximum efficiency and performance.
Positive patient-provider interactions drive business
One of the key outcomes of successful customer interaction management is repeat business and increased revenue. Patients that feel valued, respected, and cared for will return the favor by spending their hard-earned money with the healthcare organization that made them feel that way. And, the best approach for acquiring and keeping a loyal patient is to provide them with a compelling interaction that then helps build a long-term relationship.
According to Micah Solomon, noted author and patient experience consultant, “Every patient’s interaction with healthcare is judged based on expectations set by the best players in the hospitality industry, the financial services industry, and other areas where expert players have made a science of customer service.” This is very sage advice we can all keep in mind when developing customer interaction management protocols in the healthcare space.
All of which means that by developing and executing strategic customer interaction management strategies, and by leveraging the tools and techniques available to them, forward-looking healthcare providers can deliver exemplary customer interactions that drive successful business outcomes.
Alex Bäcker is co-founder and CEO of QLess and serves on the California Institute of Technology’s Information Sciences and Technology Board of Advisors. He holds a degree in Biology and Economics from MIT and an M.S. and Ph.D. in Computation and Neural Systems and Biology from Caltech.