Customer service in healthcare is challenging. The difficulty comes from hospitals in general being a complex system. There are a lot of disconnected entities that need to work together in order to get something accomplished. But when there are problems, it’s often tough to determine where the actual issue is hiding, let alone find someone who can sort it out and make it right.
Look at a typical surgery, for example. In addition to the surgeons, who are likely not employed by the hospital at which the surgery is performed, you have nurses (who are employed by the hospital), anesthesiologists (who aren’t) and during recovery, you may be monitored by a hospitalist (who is). Add to that the surgical suite itself, ambulance company (if used), and let’s not forget your insurance company… yeah, it’s getting a little crowded.
So when you get a stack of unintelligible bills, none of which quite align with the others, where do you even begin?
There simply isn’t enough customer service staff within healthcare to cover the range of services and entities involved. Even if there was enough staff, chances are they aren’t empowered to do much of anything to help a confused patient.
Many companies outside of healthcare, like Best Buy for example, provide excellent customer service. So their recent announcement that they are creating a new customer service arm, Twelpforce to operate through Twitter, makes me wonder what the potential is for healthcare to catch up.
Best Buy’s CMO, Barry Judge, writes about Twelpforce in a recent blog post.
There are a few interesting ideas that he shares which lead them to take this new approach:
- The service will be staffed by employees from across all operations, not by cross-functional customer service staff
- Customer service is now part of everyone’s jobs, not its own department
- Twelpforce will allow Best Buy to be proactive with customer service, seeking out issues rather than waiting for unhappy customers to come to them
- This highly personalized customer service approach plays a clear role in marketing and sales as well. This has often been part of the Best Buy brand, but Twitter allows them to reach outside of the walls of their stores and do the same thing that they do in their stores.
So, could healthcare create a Twelpforce? Can we reach across organizational boundaries and create a place where we help health consumers make better decisions?
Can we afford not to?