An Unhealthy Dose of Customer Service
By Samuel Greengard
It's nothing short of remarkable when you find an organization that lacks the business processes and IT systems to handle even the most basic tasks. It's even worse when the company is in the health care industry and seems to be completely oblivious to the normal rules of business.
Welcome to Kaiser Permanente Dental Care in the Pacific Northwest. It's a textbook example of a company that desperately needs to reinvent the way it handles customers or, in this case, patients.
Let me preface my remarks by saying I have no complaints about the quality of care. The dentists, hygienists and desk staff at my local clinic are all great. The problem? Kaiser Permanente forces members to call in for an appointment and choose between an automated phone system that's clunky and slow (think "1999") or a representative who manually searches for open appointments.
Unfortunately, obtaining an appointment is nearly impossible, even with a human rep at the other end of the phone line.
Consider a recent interaction: After receiving an automated message that it's time for a cleaning, I called member services. The representative checked the schedule and indicated no appointments were available.
"Forever?" I asked incredulously.
"For the foreseeable future," she replied.
"When will appointments be available?"
"I don't know. They are released in blocks at certain times and they don't inform us in advance. You go to a small clinic and they are quite busy."
She informed me I should check back weekly until I can find an open appointment.
Seriously? I need to call in and spend 10 to 15 minutes on the phone per call for who knows how many weeks until I can land an appointment?
There are so many business gaffes, faux pas and fundamental errors here it's impossible to address them all in a single blog post. But how about using computers to manage patient loads? How about offering an online system that lets people book appointments? How about running the business like a business?
CIOs should take note. Unfortunately, there is no shortage of breakdowns across the business world. The takeaway here is that if you can't connect business processes with technology, your customers will wind up with a great big headache or toothache … and eventually take their business elsewhere.