Patient Satisfaction: The fallacy of CRM and Call Centers

McDonald’s initiates a program to improve customer experience across the board, maybe now we will be able to get the extra pickle.  So, we’ve got that to look forward to.

Have I written recently that I am not a fan of technology unless someone knows what business problem they intend to solve? It’s not so much that I have anything against any of the technology or any particular technology, it’s more that I think many are misjudging what the technology will do for them, what they have to do to it, and they forget to ask themselves how to best address the problems.

Whatever do you mean? Thanks for asking—here’s an example. When the United States first started sending astronauts into space, they quickly discovered that ballpoint pens would not work in zero gravity.

To combat the problem, NASA scientists spent a decade and $12 Billion to develop a pen that writes in zero gravity, upside down, underwater, on almost any surface including glass and at temperatures ranging from below freezing to 300C.

The Russians used a pencil.

A colleague told me yesterday that she spent three hours, nonstop, trying to schedule a follow up appointment with a specialist at the top hospital in the country—no, I will not name the hospital because you already know which one it is.

Her mistake was both obvious and unavoidable; she used her phone.  She would have done no worse had she used heliographs—look it up, it did.

Regarding patient satisfaction, hospitals have two black holes; their CRM and their call centers. Permit me to write in parenthesis for a moment.  The call centers at the hospital at which we are tossing metaphorical tomatoes close at the hour before most people on the east coast have begun their evening meal.  Never mind the fact that the hospital has several international locations.  Close paren.

Les Misérables, Act One: The Fallacy of CRM. You may want to look at this PowerPoint presentation:

Most CRM (Customer Relationship Management) applications are sales force automation tools.  Does the name of the application offer a hint that it was not written with the purpose of helping you meet your patients’ needs— 

Even if your CRM was designed to manage your relationships with your patients, can any organization effectively manage those relationships, or are you trying to achieve an unachievable goal?  Is the notion of CRM your hospital’s Gordian knot?  Like it or not, know it or not, your customers, neigh patients, are managing your organization.

A person thinks they may have a kidney stone. Picture two scenarios.  In the first scenario, the hospital places a billboard a mile from the hospital depicting a photo of its urologists—my hospital did just that.  Intrigued, the potential patient dials the hospital’s the phone number, the one depicted on the billboard, or even worse, dials the number shown on the hospital’s web site.  This same phone number will supposedly also get you to someone to help you to donate to the hospital, listen to a recording on erectile dysfunction, learn about the benefits of an Oreo-free diet, and correct left-handedness.  

In the second scenario, the person goes to the web—oh my goodness, do not let them do that—and they enter their zip code and spend a few minutes researching which hospital is best suited to their needs.

All of a sudden your hospital is confronted with the fact that the potential patient is going to issue a virtual request for information, an RFI, to determine which hospital is most to their liking.

I will buy lunch for anyone who in designing their call center used design thinking and cognitive inquiry to create the call center’s functionality and who included patients in its design.  Table for one, please.

The functionality of almost every hospital call center results from a meeting in which the final design functionality of the call center comes from hospital employees and IT rhetorically answering their own question, ‘what do our patients need from a call center.’  The functionality should come from direct observation of patients trying to interact with the hospital and from what is learned by asking the question of patients, ‘what do you need from a call center?’

Have a meeting about how to best plan for and implement CRM and your call centers in your hospital.  One rule, all discussion should involve patients.  A second rule, yield to process, not technology. Try first to reach consensus about what your patients want it to do, and then look at how to do it. You may find out that all you need is a pencil.


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