I recently needed to speak with a division of the federal government. I called their published 800 number however they were experiencing high call volumes and waiting on hold was not presented as an option for me; I was forced to disconnect and try again later. Let me say this again, an agency of the federal government was unreachable on four separate occasions and did not provide me the opportunity to wait on hold for someone who could help. And there was no emergency the IVR made me aware of. Is that acceptable?
I don't think so. While I can sympathize with the limited funds available to staff their Call Centre appropriately, I cannot accept that a better, more efficient way to ensure callers could reach this agency was not available. I called on four separate occasions, each on a different day and time. I challenge our federal government to review its Call Centre operations across all agencies because this experience isn't good enough.
Shortly after this experience, I dealt with a medical emergency on behalf of a family member, which led to me to dive deeper into our medical system's customer experience. While part of the experience was quite positive, especially the care provided by the doctors and nurses, other areas could have been better, including:
- No defined patience/customer experience expectation - nothing written at least anywhere I could see
- A lack of collaboration between hospitals when patient care/history had to be shared
- Incredibly long wait times and an overcrowded waiting area in one of the emergency wards
- A lack of empowerment for administrators who often make key decisions on patient care
I can only imagine the complexities involved in running a hospital, let alone what the staff go through helping the sick and managing their anxious family and friends. That said, I am still going to challenge them to Be Better. I know budgets are tight but I don't think as patients and advocates we are asking for anything that isn't manageable. Here are five inexpensive ways hospitals can improve their patient/customer experience:
- Define your patient/customer experience and post it EVERYWHERE (keep it simple & attainable)
- Ensure all admin staff are trained on current policy and empower them to break it when reasonable
- Design an in house patient/customer experience course and train EVERYONE
- Increase collaboration and review processes for patient care when treated at multiple hospitals
- Ask patients what we think and ACT on our suggestions if they are within reason
The above are not expensive to implement and a good way to start improving things, Moreover, several can be applicable to all public service organizations. Our public agencies can Be Better and while I empathize with the challenges they face, I believe they should hold themselves to delivering the best possible patient/customer experience. This is even more important when we are at our most vulnerable (e.g. when in a hospital).
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