Health professionals must focus on what really matters to customers
Published by Leon Paternoster for Institute of Customer Service in Local Government and also in Central Government, Health
In striving for excellent customer care in health care, organisations must first understand what really matters to patients, the first Institute of Customer Service health care forum has been told.
An audience of close to 60 ICS members and non-members spanning the National Health Service, private medical insurance, the pharmaceutical industry, health charities and other related organisations discussed the customer care challenges that now face the health sector.
Opening the event, chairman ‘JD’ Glover, director of operations for UK iSOFT, the world’s largest provider of healthcare IT solutions, set the tone for the day when he said “What all of us need to remember is that it is not about the product we provide, it is about the service we provide. We need to drive that understanding into every square millimetre of our respective organisations.”
This challenge was particularly acute in the health sector, he added, because the drive from central government for personalisation of the customer experience came at a time when the demands of an increasingly ageing population were being supported by a smaller number of working people.
“This means that in future we will have to do things faster, better and cheaper,” he added.
All the speakers were united in their view that the key to good customer or patient care was the need to know what really mattered to their audiences.
There was a great danger of simply collecting more data on patients, said Mandy Wearne, director of service experience at NHS North West. “We are on the cusp of going data crazy when what we need to do is say that there is some basic stuff that we need to get right,” she said.
“Good customer insight has to be more than the absence of complaints. We are asking people what we could do better for the next person when what we really need to do is to find out how we can get it better now.”
Mandy stressed that one of the many challenges in ‘putting service back into the NHS’ was staff engagement. “The health service is very competency driven, so we go for people who have all the right experience, but forget that the key skill is actually being able to talk to people.”
This theme was echoed by Fraser Rogers, head of public engagement at the Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. “The hospital is a stage. When you come to work and put on that badge you are on that stage and everything you do and say has an impact on how the patient view their experience.
“As a patient if someone in the coffee shop is rude to you, you won’t remember the life-saving treatment you received you will just remember that rude individual,” he said. The trust is increasingly ensuring that it recruits people with the right interpersonal skills and customer care training is becoming mandatory for all 7,000 hospital staff.
Providing a view from the private sector was Oke Eleazu, customer service and operations director at BUPA. “When people pay a significant amount of money for something they can get for free from the NHS, customer care is the key,” he said. The aim, he continued was to meet and to exceed customer expectations: “But first of all, you have to understand what they are, and having done that put in the processes which will deliver it.”
Ruth Evans, membership director of the Institute of Customer Service, reported on the latest findings from the Institute’s UK Customer Satisfaction Index which asks 24,000 to rate how well or badly organisations and companies perform in 12 key public and private sectors.
Looking at the results for health-related organisations from the latest survey published in January, Ruth reported that the satisfaction rating for government departments and agencies now stands at 70 out of 100, an improvement of three points on the previous index. The Ambulance Service was the sector’s best performer with a score of 87 out of 100. GP surgeries/health centres scored 76. The NHS/hospital service scored 70.
In the private sector, Boots, a previous leader in the Retail non food category had slipped to third place behind Lloyd’s Pharmacy, while in the Services sector BUPA scored 82 out of 100.
Other speakers at the forum, which was held at the British Council in Central London, included Andy Murdock, pharmacy director at Lloyds Pharmacy, Mike Summerfield, a performance coach from RogenSi, and Stephen Eastham, pharmacy operations development manager for Boots UK Ltd.