Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

A recent experience I had with a major healthcare provider here in San Diego reminded me of how very important it is, no matter the business, to keep in mind the basic principles of customer service. The way your customer feels about you, your product, or your brand, has a direct impact on your customer, and, ultimately, your bottom line.

This week, due to a billing error, a collections agency contacted me about an outstanding balance from an emergency room visit for my 2-year old son. I knew that this couldn’t be right, as I had never received a bill in the first place. After a number of calls and terrible customer service from a company it turns out was unaffiliated with the hospital, I took to social media in desperation.

The healthcare provider responded within a short time span -- as soon as the representative was able to investigate what had happened so she’d be able to provide a decisive, complete answer that would assuage my fears. That person contacted me -- several times, in fact -- to provide the explanation and definitive resolution to the billing error and resulting collections agency nightmare. A complete 180 from the deplorable experience with the billing service.

That representative went above and beyond, investigating and following up tirelessly, a problem it turned out was not hers to solve, all in the name of ensuring I had a positive experience with the brand. Mission accomplished!

It brought to mind some basic principles of customer service that CHI strives to provide its members  and that we should all keep in mind when interacting with our various audiences:

1)      To your customer, customer-facing employees ARE the company.

The impression a customer receives of your company is a direct result of the interactions he or she has with your customer-facing employees.  These customer touches occur anytime a person comes in contact with your company and uses that experience – good, bad or ugly -- to form an impression of your organization.  Making an investment in developing the skills and knowledge of these employees is as much an investment in improving the customer experience.

2)  Employee happiness matters.
There is a clear, strong link between an employee’s job satisfaction and the customer service that an employee provides. It doesn’t matter if you are selling healthcare services, medical devices, or shoes, for that matter. When an employee feels valued and that his or her work matters, he or she is motivated to provide excellent customer service. Conversely, if an employee isn’t satisfied with his or her work, he or she won’t be motivated to provide a high level of customer care.

3) Don’t assume customers know they are valued – show them.
The most important aspect of ensuring customers know they are valued is to take care of his or her need in a timely, efficient, and thorough manner. Every time an employee comes in contact with a customer, it is essential that that person comes with a mind to earn the business and trust of customers – something that cannot be taken for granted. Beyond fulfilling the stated request of the customer, it is critical to show appreciation and respect. Show that you care.

I hope that you feel CHI values you as a member and that your needs are being met. If you have questions about CHI’s offerings, or have input you’d like to share, please be sure to contact us!

Nicole Beckstrand is CHI’s vice president of marketing and communications. To reach her with your questions or input, email her at She is on LinkedIn and Twitter, as well.

CHI-Advancing California biomedical research and innovation

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