Recently, a close relative had a health emergency at night and needed immediate hospitalization. In her estate, very few facilities are open late, and her limited choices included a nearby public hospital (cheaper). I advised her to go there, but in her words, “Last time those people harassed me. I will never go back there.”
Eventually, she paid ten times the public hospital cost in a private clinic, and she was delighted. The next time she needs medical help, she will definitely go back there.
Her disregard for high charges is not because she has too much money to spend, but rather is an indication of her irreducible quality expectations in health service. Perhaps just one of the many hospital employees responded rudely to her, and that changed her view of the entire facility.
What makes a client walk into a health centre and resolve never to return? What would make them recommend your facility to their contacts after they have been served there?
These questions are at the core of health business success, especially now when health facilities are almost scrambling for clients. If the customer cannot find what they need in your place, there is another pharmacy nearby, another clinic, hospital or lab that can offer the same goods or services as you.
You want your clients to come back and to refer others to your facility. You want to grow your customer base; otherwise, your business crashes.
To maintain the patency of health business, we must ask ourselves the most critical question in customer service: What does the client really want?
Are clients drawn by the sophistication of your health products and equipment? Maybe, but how do you explain the long queues at herbalists’ huts in remote Kenya and Tanzania? The traditional healers cannot afford expensive drugs and diagnostic devices; their clients know this and don’t care. They must be looking for something more than physical quality.
The appearance of your facility, advertising, stern assurances of quality and cheap costs may be of only little influence in determining what a client thinks about your facility, which then determines whether they will want to come back or refer others to you.
If you work in a facility with customer feedback systems, what the patients think about your service may even affect your job status, promotions and appraisals.
Think about one time when you were served well in a health centre (hospital, clinic, pharmacy, lab etc.). Think about the person/people who served you: their tone, aura and conversation. Was there something different about them? How did their service make you feel?
Now think about the time you were served poorly in a health facility. What did the person/people do? How differently would you have wanted them to serve you?
In your interaction with a client, they subconsciously form an opinion of you which affects your relationship with them for life. Editors spend half their time reviewing the first paragraph of every article: it determines whether the reader will want to proceed or not. To succeed in health business, it is impossible to ignore client impressions.
I have interacted with patients for quite some time, and I have also been a patient myself. I have also had the chance to work in some highly selling health facilities and to learn from their sales systems some business secrets not taught in medical school.
Most health workers, unfortunately, rely almost exclusively on medical knowledge and principles to run health businesses, knowing little on people dynamics; no wonder many of them fail within the first 12 months.
It is time for us as health workers running businesses to realize the place of people dynamics in business success. In this series, we will explore 3 of the most critical aspects of client interaction which if you’re conscious about, your customer base will never stop growing.
HOW TO GET POSITIVE PATIENT FEEDBACK
In Part 2, we will discuss the three tools you can use to improve client experience in your health facility and make your service impressionable.
Meanwhile, think about the last patient you served: how did you make them feel? Would they want to come back to you again, or would they instead choose to pay ten times in another facility?