When your television won’t connect to Netflix despite repeated effort or you wish to change a reservation at your hotel, how often do you try to handle this activity via the self-service option? If you’re like most Americans, over 80% of the time we try to solve problems ourselves, before speaking to a live representative. This also means that once we reach a live representative, we often are frustrated and have a short fuse. How a customer service representative responds has a great impact. So, what makes a good customer service representative, and what can we, as health care providers, learn from their successes?
In the most recent Harvard Business Review, authors determined what behavioral traits contributed the most to highly ranked customer service representatives. Contrary to popular belief, empathy was not the most sought after emotion from representatives; rather, it was an ability to diagnose customers’ issues and offer solutions. The most successful customer service representatives focus less on asking customers what they’d like to do and spend more time on prescribing the fastest and easiest solution, thus enabling the customer to come to a solution more rapidly. These representatives also predict future problems based on the customer’s request and offer preemptive solutions (e.g. “In the future you might also find that the app has problems handing X, so let me tell you how to handle that situation if it ever arises.”)
How can this information impact us in our day-to-day interactions in the operating room? When our customers (i.e. surgeons, administrators, and patients) come to us with complaints, they likely have tried to handle their concerns in a self-service fashion and are frustrated. In these scenarios, we should consider the responses of the most successful representatives in the customer service industry. Focus on solutions that are customized to the customer’s request, and if you have encountered this problem before, skip straight to the simplest, easiest, and fastest solution. Furthermore, predict future landmines and offer potential solutions to them. While we might feel like an apology and empathy are the most significant emotions to demonstrate, it is important to know that in a self-service world, what customers most desire is a rapid, meaningful, and long-lasting solution to problems.
From “Customers Want Results—Not Sympathy,” Dixon, et al; Harvard Business Review; Jan-Feb 2017, 112-117.