Shareef Mahdavi helps doctors be smarter when it comes to their practice.  His blog covers financial, customer and technology topics.

BLOG: The half-life of a complaint

Let’s recap: In recent blogs, I’ve touched on different elements that impact the value of the medical practice, with a tilt toward the items that are more difficult to measure financially such as customer experience.

Some of you think I’m crazy when I advocate that a practice should encourage its patients to complain. There is a method to the madness in this approach. A recent blog described the service recovery paradox, meaning that if you resolve a complaint promptly, the customer is happier and more satisfied than if the issue had never occurred.

The good news is that when someone complains, you can do something. The bad news is that very few customers actually complain. The data are fairly consistent in that about 4% of customers (one in 25) with an issue actually say something to the provider. No wonder businesses and practices think they are doing better than they truly are; they aren’t getting the real story about how people feel. And how people feel about your level of service is key; 70% of buying experiences are judged by how the customer feels they are being treated.

When your practice loses a customer, it’s not because the competing practice lured them away or even that they are unhappy with their clinical outcome. Most of the time it’s because they were treated with an attitude of indifference on the part of an employee. That’s the truth.

In retail and restaurant industries, an unhappy customer will tell nine to 15 people about their bad experience. Given that medicine is becoming more consumer-driven, I suspect the numbers for medical practices are similar. Social media simply makes it easier to share the news and can have devastating effects if your social media reputation isn’t actively managed: More than three in four consumers use online reviews to determine which business to use, with half of consumers trusting online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

Complaints you know about are too important to ignore. Now it’s time to unearth more of them. Doing so puts you in a position to improve the customer experience for more of your patients overall. This strategy is far more valuable to your practice than advertising, given that it can cost up to seven times more to get a new customer than to keep a current one.

 

Disclosure: As president of SM2 Strategic, Mahdavi can be reached via his firm’s website www.sm2strategic.com or office 925-425-9900.