Sunday, December 1, 2013

How can service recovery impact the patient experience?

Mistakes happen; for as healthcare organizations we are only human. And those errors whether they are care or everyday decisions can impact the patient experience positively or negatively. So the question becomes do you recognize when service recovery is needed acting swiftly and decisively, or do you wait until there is a complaint and then act after it was already realized that an error occurred?

I think it’s a valid question from a marketing standpoint for several reasons. With the growth of social media and actively engaged adults, they have become the new paparazzi and can do wide spread reputational damage in literarily the blink of an eye.  Taking accountability and doing what is right improves the patient experience and satisfaction scores. And finally, when everyone is talking about what a high quality provider they are and to look no further, service recovery can positively impact brand by reinforcing the brand promise and brand message.

For example, I take 4,000mg daily of pharmaceutical grade fish oil to help me manage high triglycerides.  I am also in an auto ship program with omegavia. Lovaza is not on the drug formulary for my PBM so I worked with my physician to find a suitable replacement. Well in November I received two emails on the same day that my monthly supply has shipped. I thought that maybe an error had occurred and a duplicate email was sent out.  Sure enough the next day I received two separate shipments of my fish oil.

I contacted omegavia and talked to the off hours answering service and was told I would receive a call the next day. I also explained in the initial call that I wanted my December shipment suspended until January 2014.

The call did come the next day, but it wasn’t the please explain to us what happened call. The call was the customer service representative apologizing for the double shipment.  They were suspending my shipment in December and would resume in January 2014. Oh and that there was no charge for the second shipment because it was their error. Not only did I receive the call, but a confirmation email as well.

The omegavia service recovery effort was: timely; accurate, responsive, courteous; exceedingly satisfactory; improved the experience; and made me a customer evangelist.

And it does have a financial impact to the company in terms of the free months dose, the suspension of one month shipment, as well as shipping and handling costs of probably around $120 or so. I know it’s not a great amount of money in the grand scheme of things, but the point is there was no hesitation on their part to make it right.

The real kicker in all of this was when they told me that they were proactively working with their shipping department to understand the root cause of the process failure and understand how the double shipment resulted to fix the process.   Notice here that they did not throw anyone under the bus or say it was some unnamed person on the back office somewhere or a computer error. They owned up, realized the process had a built in error potential and saw this as an opportunity to improve.

Now when was the last time in a hospital or health system service recovery efforts did all of the above take place?

Please don’t go down the, “well this is pharma and retail and we are different argument”. Not really. While omegavia operates in healthcare retail environment, hospitals and health systems are moving to a semi-retail environment. In this  environment where the healthcare consumer with high deductible plans are paying higher premiums with significant out-of-pocket expenses,  they will be expecting more from providers in the service recovery effort and patient experience. It is no longer about what the hospital or health system wants do, it’s about making the healthcare consumer, aka the patient, a customer evangelist and that can only be done through the patient experience and a service recovery process that is second to none.

Repeat after me, service recovery and experience is about the healthcare consumer not the hospital or health system.

In the interest of full disclosure, I did not receive any kind of remuneration either in payment or in-kind gifts.  This post was about my experience and where I believe hospitals and health systems need to go in their service recovery efforts as part of the  patient experience management program.

Michael J. Krivich, MHA, FACHE, PCM, is an internationally followed healthcare marketing blogger with over 5,000 monthly pages views read in over 52 countries worldwide on Healthcare Marketing Matters. These views are my own. He is founder of the michael J group, a Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives and a Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association.  Like us on facebook at the michael J group, and connect with me on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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