What Healthcare Can Learn from Starbucks

Starbucks is known for amazing customer service. Healthcare, not so much.

Let’s start with a big, scary number: 96% of patient complaints online focus on customer service, not quality of care. In other words, the problem with healthcare isn’t healthcare. It’s patient experience.

So how can healthcare teams improve their customers’ experience? Let’s ask the pros.

The success of Starbucks doesn’t come from exceptional coffee, but from their focus on customer experience. Their core values offer a great road map for healthcare teams looking to set themselves apart. Take a look:

Core Value #1: Create a culture of warmth and belonging, where everyone is welcome.

One might think this one refers only to interior decoration, but cozy seating is only part of the Starbucks culture. Really this value is about considering every stage of their customer’s experience. From your name on your cup to the music overhead, Starbucks is tailored to make every customer feel right at home.

How can a healthcare team create that kind of culture? There is no one silver bullet answer, but it comes down to empathy and problem-solving. Consider your patients’ experience from start to finish. Look for ways to improve every stage of it. Rinse and repeat.

Core Value #2: Act with courage, challenging the status quo and finding new ways to grow our company and each other.

Before Starbucks, the culture of coffee shops was drastically different. Year after year, this company looks for new ways to do their business.

This is a big one for the healthcare world. Medical tools continue to advance — and we’re all glad for that — but otherwise, the experience of healthcare has stayed mostly the same for decades. There are lots of reasons for that, but challenging the status quo is key to moving your practice forward.

+Are you still asking patients to fax forms?
+Are you still leaving voicemails, which have a 5% response rate?
+Are you
texting patients who prefer it?
Can they text you back?

If your answers are yes, yes, no, and no, it might be time to rethink things.

Core Value #3: Be present, connecting with transparency, dignity, and respect.

Once again, this has nothing to do with coffee. You can serve a killer latté without ever making eye contact with your customer. Connecting is about seeing and hearing the other person. It’s about conversation.

Take just a slice of time to connect with your patients. Obviously you respect them, but let them see that. Don’t interrupt them. Let them ask questions and answer with clarity and patience. Better conversations will transform your patients’ experience, and what’s more, according to Dr. Eliseo Pérez-Stable, director of National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, better conversations actually improve health outcomes.

Core Value #4: Deliver our very best in all we do, holding ourselves accountable for results.

The key phrase here is in all we do. Every facet of your patient’s experience affects their opinion of you. It all matters. What’s more, a satisfied and comfortable patient will be more prone to ask any questions they have. That leads to better conversations, which leads to better care, which leads to more patients coming through your door.

What about return on investment? How do you measure an experience? Gather feedback. Ask for reviews. Send out surveys. Patient satisfaction can be quantified and improved. It’s up to your team to make it a priority.

Here’s a good place to start:

Brian Beise is content manager at Rhinogram, the HIPAA-compliant digital conversation kit.

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