Do You Provide Contact Options For Your Patients?



A successful omnichannel strategy requires intentional implementation

By Peter L. DeHaan, PhD

Peter DeHaan, Publisher and Editor of AnswerStatHave you ever had a company ask how you wanted them to contact you? Options might include phone, email, text, fax, mail, or social media private messaging.

How well did they do at complying with your request?

With one company I asked for email communications, but they called me. When I reminded them I preferred email, they switched to that channel. But after too many emails failed to make progress, I switched to the telephone, which confused them. In the end, I accomplished my objective and gained something to write about in the process.

Another organization asked the same question. Text messaging seemed the way to go, since I envisioned short, succinct communications with them. Though I opted for text, they emailed me instead. In fact, they always email. Once when I called and left a message, they emailed me back. Another time I specifically asked for a text to confirm an appointment, but they emailed me. Email is their preferred contact method, even if it isn’t mine.

I applaud these organizations for asking my preference and criticize them even more for not following through. If you can’t comply, you shouldn’t ask. That way you don’t establish false expectations or cause frustration with your patient or customer.Providing excellent customer service relies on excellent communication. Click To Tweet

In considering these two experiences, a few thoughts come to mind, which apply to any contact center that truly has a customer-focused perspective.

Offering Channel Options Is Good: Letting patients and their caregivers select their preferred contact method is a customer-friendly move. It’s also a great idea, given that patients often have options for healthcare providers and are quick to exercise those options if you disappoint or disrespect them.

Not Honoring Channel Requests Is Bad: Not using the channel a patient requests is worse than not offering the option in the first place. If you can’t (or won’t) contact patients and prospective patients by the method they request, then don’t bother to ask.

Not Responding On Any Channel Is Even Worse: Making no effort to contact patients or customers when they request it is the worst possible error to make. And this mistake happens too often.

Knowing When to Switch Channels is Key: Sometimes a preferred channel bogs down communication. When emails or texts go back and forth without resolution, it’s time to pick up the phone, but before doing so, make that suggestion through the patient’s channel of choice. And if the patient opts to switch channels, make sure their contact history follows them to the new channel.

Asking people how they want you to contact them is great, providing you follow through. But if you don’t do as they request, you’re better off not offering it as an option. Conversely know when it’s appropriate to switch channels. And most importantly, always, always follow through.

Providing excellent customer service relies on excellent communication, whether it’s within the requested channel or if there’s a need to move outside of it. Just don’t arbitrarily jump channels. The only thing that will accomplish is patient frustration.

If your contact center has an omnichannel strategy be smart about the implementation.

Peter L. DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of AnswerStat and a passionate wordsmith. Connect with him on his blog, social media, and newsletter, all at www.authorpeterdehaan.com.