The current issues in the healthcare sector places patient/customer satisfaction at the center of efforts made to realize clinical quality across most hospitals in the United States. Furthermore, the existing healthcare market gives patients the option of choosing a healthcare provider based on the quality of services offered. For many, quality customer service implies the existence of a well known standard of healthcare delivery in a hospital. Therefore, organizations committed towards ensuring that both clinical quality and customer service are patient-centered, stands out from the rest. Accordingly, it is imperative for organizations to ensure that the patient satisfaction survey results are incorporated into organizational culture and strategic goals (Starvins, 2006, para 1).
Accordingly, the importance of customer service as a measure of quality in healthcare facilities revolve around its significant role as a criteria used by customers in choosing a healthcare provider. Through customer service, customers (patients and their families) get the opportunity to assess whether the quality of services offered tallies with their expectations. Therefore, customer service is an intrinsic requirement in providing quality services, which in turn lead to customer satisfaction, and finally fostering organizational success. Accordingly, the elements of customer service include customer service itself, customer expectations, and customer satisfaction (Shi & Singh, 2005, p. 18). Taken together, the elements of customer service link the internal environment of the healthcare organization to its external environment (healthcare market).
It is important to note that customers tend to measure the quality of customer service relative to their expectations. Therefore, the only way an organization can align its customer service to fit the customer expectations is by asking the customers about their expectations through patient satisfaction surveys. On the other hand, there are many components, which determine customer satisfaction in an organization. For instance, customers tend to judge the quality of care based on the availability of technically competent doctors, good physical facilities, evidence-based diagnoses, well mannered doctors and staff, good service accessibility, humaneness, pocket-friendly cost, and favorable waiting time among other aspects of care. Ironically, good clinical care is not a good measure of the overall customer satisfaction because without good customer care, customers tend to rate their overall satisfaction lowly. Therefore, there is the need to foster good customer service through creating a customer service culture, defining the responsibilities and expectations of staff members, and training hospital staff on customer service issues (Starvins, 2006, para 2-3; Safavi, 2006, p. 216).
Unlike other industries like hotels where customer service/satisfaction is entirely measured by looking at the extent to which customer expectations have been achieved, customer service in the healthcare sector is complicated because customer expectations are of a personal nature, subtle, and difficult to define. As a result, it is common practice for hospitals to conduct patient satisfaction surveys with the aim of trying to define what their customers really expect of their services. Therefore, those organizations/areas, which receive below average comments from their clients, should conduct customer satisfaction surveys in order to define the expectations of their customers. These should include both clinical and service customer expectations. Subsequently, they should show the willingness to create a culture, which embraces the idea of continuous quality improvement relative to customer expectations. Moreover, there is the need to initiate in-depth research on key indicators of customer satisfaction by creating focus groups or face-to-face interviews to collect the patients’, employees’, and physicians’ views on issues related to customer satisfaction. In this way, the organization can be least assured that the best possible solutions will be used in resolving specific problem areas. Most importantly, expanding the scope of market research by using multiple patient satisfaction survey tools can go a long way in providing the real situation regarding overall customer satisfaction. Overall, customer satisfaction/service can be improved by making it a routine measure of quality in all hospitals (Shi & Singh, 2005, p. 23).
Safavi, K. (2006). Patient-centered pay for performance: Are we missing the target? Journal of Healthcare Management, 51(4), 215-218.
Shi, L., & Singh, D. (2005). Essentials of the U.S. healthcare system. Sudbury, M.A.: Jones and Bartlett Publishers.
Starvins, C.L. (2006). Developing employee participation in the patient satisfaction process. ACHE: Fellowship Case Reports. Web.