Customer Experience: Consistency is key

Recently, I heard a radio ad as I was driving to work about the “spa-like” patient experience of getting a mammogram at my local hospital system. While it sounds like an over-promise, having been a patient there, I can tell you it is not.

My experience at the mammography center started with a warm greeting by a friendly receptionist. I was then whisked away into a spa-like changing room, complete with honey colored wood lockers, thick terry robes and ethereal music floating in the background. The scent of eucalyptus hung in the air. To top it all off, I got a pretty faux-pearl bracelet commemorating breast health awareness month.

But rather than float happily away, I was mad.

My experience with the very same hospital system earlier in the day couldn’t have been more different, in a negative way. I thought, if this hospital system can even make a mammogram pleasant, why was the earlier pediatric appointment for my daughter so maddening? For that appointment, I entered what looked like beige food court in a mall, little booths for each pediatric specialty ringing the room, each manned by a booth lady. Threatening signs dotted the walls cautioning against letting your children bounce on the furniture.

I approached a booth. When I simply inquired whether my daughter’s appointment was for 3 pm or for 2:45 I was told, “I don’t know when your appointment is for, just sit and wait for the doctor.”

Yes, this was the same health system.

The negative pediatric experience overshadowed any good will that surely would have blossomed from the spa-like mammogram. And this is where most patient/consumer experiences fall short: consistency. No one had bothered to think thru the entirety of the journey a patient may have in the health care system. In my case, playing different roles: parent, patient and parental caregiver.

A study by McKinsey & Company of 27,000 American consumers found that consistency is the key to customer satisfaction. The study, which spanned 14 different industries, found that focusing on the entirety of the customer experience rather than isolated events in the journey has the potential to measurably impact customer satisfaction and raise revenues up to 15%.

Given the impressive McKinsey numbers, what is preventing companies from providing a uniformly positive customer experience? In my experience advising companies in health care, it often comes down to one word: silos. Organizational silos prevent a holistic view and tracking of customer interactions across a company. Based on the experience with my local hospital system, it is pretty clear that the Mammography Center and the Pediatric Department do not share much at all.

For Pharma companies, customer experience is increasingly viewed as “the next big thing,” for differentiating products in highly competitive categories like diabetes, hepatitis C and the upcoming battle amongst PSK9 drugs for high cholesterol.

Makes sense. The Accountable Care Act links patient experience to reimbursement, so the traditional pharmaceutical customers­— HCPs, Hospitals and Payers—are now interested in how pharmaceutical companies can help them improve the patient experience. And patients themselves, accustomed to higher service levels in every other aspect of their lives, will begin to expect more from Pharmaceutical companies.

However, Pharmaceutical companies are notoriously siloed. So much so that I even know of one company where two separate customer experience projects were initiated by different departments. So imagine how difficult it will be to get people to line up behind any sort of uniform tracking approach!

Any customer experience or patient centricity effort that does not address the organizational barriers, therefore, is doomed to failure. And as I can tell you based on my experience with my local hospital system, no matter how much you advertise the positives; the inconsistencies will always pull you down.