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The customer is always right. …right? For many service-based companies, this mantra rings true more often than it doesn’t. It’s not hard to understand that if a customer is not happy with what you are doing, they will likely go elsewhere. When a customer at a restaurant thinks the server is rude, regardless of the truth of this claim, management needs to act quickly to intervene or that consumer will be less likely to return.

Author: Bradley McClure

This “the customer is always right” mantra can get tricky in the healthcare setting. Customers, in this case, are patients who are sick or injured. They want to feel healthy again as quickly and as painlessly as possible. In some cases, patients might not want a necessary surgery because it will be a long road of recovery. They may not want a specific test done because of genuine fears associated with the tests. In this case, the customer is not right, because they do not know what specific steps are needed to sustain their health. 

Unfortunately, this idea that customers do not know what is best for them in healthcare has carried into areas where patients (aka customers) actually DO know better and are always right. Specifically the overall patient experience. In fact, studies have shown patients are increasingly less satisfied with their overall experience, yet providers are not taking the necessary steps to change this. 

The support

According to recent research at, 81% of consumers remain unsatisfied with the current health care experience. Even worse, the more patients engage with a specific organization, the less satisfied they become. Surely such a staggering figure would give leadership a migraine if these numbers were reflected at their facility. With 80% of customers remaining dissatisfied, most leaders in healthcare should be getting that migraine.

Additional research by the American College of Healthcare Executives 2014 Survey revealed a disconnect between the providers who actually work with patients and the leadership which does not. Specifically, they reported that, “[d]espite the best intentions to deliver a better patient experience, providers struggle to make it a priority among competing initiatives. For example, 75%* of providers say patient experience is critical to the future success of their organizations. Meanwhile, on the list of hospital CEOs’ top concerns, patient satisfaction does not make the top five.”

The challenge

It is apparent CEOs and providers disagree on the importance of patient experience., As providers seem to be learning, it is no longer enough to heal the patient, the patient needs to feel cared for. Those currently in leadership must learn this quickly or their patients will start taking their healthcare needs to a competitor. Individuals actually dealing with patients on a regular basis are sensing a need to improve patient experience. As other industries are striving to become more customer-centric, healthcare is in danger of being left behind.

The problem can seem daunting for healthcare providers, but learning how to provide a better patient experience doesn’t have to be hard. The first step is to actively listen and engage patients to learn what specifically would improve their experience. By implementing tools to gather patient insights in real-time, healthcare facilities will be enabled to utilize data to drive specific actions that will make patients know their experience is of the utmost importance. What better way to show that “the customer is always right.”