Here’s how we’ll know when the medical profession has gotten serious about customer service

Here’s how we’ll know when the medical profession has gotten serious about customer service

About 15 years ago service-oriented companies like Xerox discovered that customers who gave the company the highest possible score (5 out of 5 or 10 out of 10) on customer service surveys were much more loyal than those who gave a 4 or 9. The “lifetime value” of loyal customers was much higher than for the average customer. Since then companies in all sorts of businesses have applied that lesson, and have started rewarding employees who provide the best service.

It wasn’t long before front-line employees got the message. Many worked on improving service, but –in a move that the gurus never anticipated– many others starting lobbying their customers to reward them with the highest scores. Some examples:

  • Hotels where all the employees wear pins asking for 10s and where every rooms has signs to the same effect
  • Car dealerships that offer free oil changes to customers who bring in their blank customer service survey. (This can also work in reverse: I had a terrible experience in 2003 buying a Mazda at Ira in Danvers, MA and gave them the lowest score on everything on a phone survey, enough to cancel out a month of 10s. The salesman actually found out it was me –so much for anonymity– and told me I had cost him $3500. I hope it’s true.)
  • We had a new frig delivered yesterday. The Sears delivery person gave me a note asking for a 10. In a new twist, the note also asked that I answer “no rating” if I didn’t feel I could give a 10. Sounds like the “no ratings” aren’t averaged in. But actually they did a great job and I’ll give them all 10s if they call.

Anyway, despite the arrival in health care of “customer experience” surveys such as CAHPS, I predict it will be a while before the feedback matters enough that your nurse or doc will try to game the system with a pin or note or a free oil change (or equivalent).

July 3, 2006

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