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Healthcare Customer Satisfaction: More Talk AND More Action

Healthcare Customer Satisfaction: More Talk AND More Action Customer satisfaction (Voice of the customer) is a recurrent th...

Saturday, June 11, 2011


In the laboratory business we have always thought it was all about the science and not about the business.

But we were wrong. ISO as well as WHO and CLSI (and before them, Deming and Crosby) all acknowledge the importance of “Customer satisfaction”.
It is not so much that the customer is always right, but that the customer should always have a voice and should be heard. There is an expectation to have some form of customer input on a regular basis, perhaps as often as once a year.
The reason that the standards development bodies have included this as a requirement and the basis for policy is because it doesn’t matter if you are an academic providing a course, or a laboratory providing documented information, or a manufacturer providing umbrellas, or a proficiency testing provider, or an equipment and reagents supplier, if your customers are not happy, then bad things start to happen.

In the private product or service sector that probably means customers stop coming. And that becomes the business killer.
In the public sector laboratory, the customer may not have a choice of which laboratory they have to use, but that won’t stop complaints, reputation slurs, increased threat of litigation. (Incidentally, this applies to accreditation bodies as well.) Sooner or later you risk becoming the interest of the public and the media. In the US, think 20/20. In Canada think W5, or on the net, think www.darkreport.com. Or even worse, think about the embarrassment and humiliation of a public enquiry.

All of those are major career killers.
So what to do. In the business world, the godsend solution to customer satisfaction has become the on-line survey. It is so easy to create an on-line survey and send it out to all your important customers. So easy, in fact, that it has become too easy. Anyone foolish enough to give your email address to a hotel or car-rental or restaurant gets inundated with surveys. We have become a world of survey send-outers and survey send-inners, and most of it is a waste of time.

Most surveys are poorly designed; are way too long, too complex, and far too diffusely focused. If a survey takes more than 2 -3 minutes to complete, you can guarantee that either it will not be completed, or will be completed with junk information. Steven, my statistics and design guru (see http://blog.noblemail.ca/ - A MATHEMATICIAN AT RISK )   assures me that while survey information may be fun to look at, it is never to be trusted. You can say with total confidence that the responders are always biased one way or another,and probably have interpreted the questions in ways that you never dreamt of. Creating most surveys has become high risk of being counter productive for addressing customer satisfaction. As they say “Fast, easy, slick and wrong”.

If you still feel compelled to resort to surveys, spent some time at setting them up so that you might get some information that you can consider. (We call that PDSA) .

(1) Focus them to a single issue

(2) limit the survey to only a few questions , best is to keep it to 5-6 and NEVER more than 10, and make them as uncomplicated as possible .

(3) Pre-test the questions to reduce (you can never avoid) ambiguity and

(4) make sure that it can always be completed in 3 minutes or less.

(5) and never require an answer. That is a guaranteed invitation to bogus information.

(6) decide in advance which slice of your audience you are interested in and then only focus your energy on that group. General send-outs are a total waste of time.

A more effective solution for monitoring satisfaction is looking at objective measures. Count how many complaints come in and how many are resolved within a specific time. That means setting up a system to catalogue every complaint, something that most laboratories never do. All those telephone and hall-way gripes are complaints and they need to be included. You may not think they were important, but the person who mentioned them did.


  1. I read this article, this article very informative and interesting..I refer your blog to many of my friends as well.
    Thanks for sharing knowledge..

  2. Many thanks
    I went to your site and signed up for a personal account and gave it a try. Looks like a slick tool to help folks design surveys.

    I was wondering if you also provide a service that will assist folks in creating surveys with a better chance for success?