How to Empower Healthcare Employees with Customer Service Skills

Working in the healthcare field is hard work - treating patients’ medical problems, managing caseloads of patients, working long shifts, all often under time pressure or even in tense or chaotic settings. As if all that isn’t enough, healthcare professionals are also expected to be kind, compassionate, helpful and calm with their patients at all times! How can you ensure good customer service in healthcare when employees are already so busy?

Empower employees to act in the most patient-centered ways possible by providing training on customer service skills. A fantastic way to provide this training is with customer service training videos - specifically, ones that are healthcare-oriented. Having scenarios set in the healthcare field that depict realistic patient-caregiver interactions helps employees relate to, and emotionally engage with, the training material. This allows them to be more receptive to learning.   

Customer service training videos can teach healthcare employees skills like listening to patients, understanding their needs, ensuring patients’ comfort and privacy, and simple attentiveness and empathy. They can also provide lessons on harder customer service skills involving service recovery when something has gone wrong - handling upset or disappointed patients and their families, what to do when you can’t comply with a request, or how to respond when a patient becomes rude.

In these challenging moments, it’s important for medical staff to communicate three signals: I care, I understand, and you can trust me to take care of this. The words you will use to communicate these signals will differ for each situation, depending on the patient and the problem, but the overall message should remain the same.

I Care: Signaling that you care about the patient and their problem usually begins with the words “I’m sorry.” These are powerful words that quickly demonstrate that you care about what just happened to the patient or visitor. You should follow up this apology by listening with your undivided attention. The patient may want to vent and needs to be heard. Remain calm, listen, and keep your own emotions out of it.

I Understand: Showing upset patients or family members that you understand begins with sending “understanding” body language, including making eye contact (no eye-rolling), keeping an open posture (no crossed arms), and demonstrating patience and sincerity through your gestures and voice tone. It’s important that you communicate that you understand both their concern AND how they’re feeling. For example, if a patient complains to you that they’ve gotten lost three times already trying to find the hospital’s lab, show you understand both their concern (they’re lost and need help) and how they’re feeling (confused, frustrated).

You Can Trust Me to Take Care of This: Sending this third signal is important because it goes beyond showing care and understanding of a problem - it demonstrates that you’re going to take action to help the patient. You can build the patient’s trust, here, by using the words, “for you.” This tells your patient that you will work on their behalf and you’re on their side. This builds trust and breaks down walls that patients sometimes put up, in anger or fear.

Customer service in healthcare is a vital part of a patient’s decision to stay with a current provider or facility, or find a new one. Encourage your staff to care about each patient’s experience in your facility and to use the three signals above when dealing with upset patients or family members. Customer service training videos like The Right Words at the Right Time: Customer Service Recovery for Healthcare reinforce these customer service skills in a healthcare setting and offer a clear checklist of customer service recovery tools and techniques.