Column: Customer Satisfaction Is More Than a Survey

By Larry Moliterno

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – We’ve all taken customer satisfaction surveys after some type of service. In the health care industry, surveys can help to determine whether a patient’s needs have been met. But customer satisfaction doesn’t always measure the patient’s emotional experience and perception of care.

The patient experience includes a wide range of interactions, not just with clinical professionals. It encompasses parking, waiting rooms, online interactions, and even food service.

Successful organizations understand that their brands are much more than a logo and a catchy slogan. It’s the personality of the organization, formed by the relationship you build with patients and community partners. It’s the perception and reputation you get from former and current patients and staff. It’s what people in the community have heard about your organization, even if they haven’t experienced it themselves.

It all starts with the experience your customers or patients have with your organization – because it’s personal.

Why do you need a strong brand? The most obvious result is patient loyalty and increased referrals. And, at the end of the day, don’t you want to continue providing great experiences to the people who need your service?

Take a walk in the patient’s shoes and ask yourself some questions.

• What is one’s first interaction with your staff?

• What do they think when they pull into the parking lot? Is it well-maintained and well-lit? Does it feel safe?

• Are they greeted in a genuine and caring manner when they walk in?

• Is the waiting room clean? Are magazines current? Is it comfortable, both physically and aesthetically?

• Does your building smell and look clean?

• Have those seemingly insignificant small repairs been completed?

• Can they hear staff talking with each other, perhaps about scheduling or what’s for lunch?

• Do they feel that your services are well coordinated? Do staff members align with each other when they talk with patients?

• Are they stuck in the waiting room for a long time? If they are, is it comfortable?

• Do they feel like they’re being heard by their providers and staff?

• To truly understand the patient’s experience, consider the five senses. What do they hear? What do they see? How do they feel? What do they smell? What do they taste?Are they included in determining their treatment plan? Do they completely understand their diagnoses or do they have unanswered questions?

• Do they understand the details of their medications? When to take them, how often and potential side effects.

• Do they know what they are supposed to do to follow up?

Ask your employees to put their “patient glasses” on and imagine if this is their first time visiting the facility. Would they want to be a patient in your facility? Would they refer a loved one to their places of work? If the answer is no to either of those questions, you know you have some problems that need to be addressed ASAP.

These are just a few ways to determine your patient’s experience – or customer if you’re outside the health care industry. It goes beyond simply sending out a customer satisfaction survey.

Larry Moliterno is CEO of Meridian Healthcare.