An elderly patient frantically called into one of the nation’s largest diagnostic imaging organizations. The receptionist answered the phone as they always did, while the patient repeatedly explained in an accelerated, pronounced tone, “I just know something is wrong. I just know something is wrong.” The receptionist attempted to calm and reassure the patient, and asked them to explain the situation. The patient continued:
“I just know they found something this time. I have been getting my images taken here for years, and it’s always days and days before I hear my results. I was scanned just yesterday, and there was already a message on my machine that my results were ready. I need to speak to the doctor right away, because there must be something wrong. There just has to be, there’s no other explanation.”
Wow. That’s a drop the phone moment, as we all know the anxiety of being a patient and the nervous anticipation that accompanies the wait for results. Luckily for the patient nothing was wrong as their results were normal. But what had changed? The patient had usually waited days to hear back, as that was the expectation that had been set and they were ok with that. It was expected. The imaging organization had seemingly done the right thing. The patient was scheduled and scanned, the radiologist read the images and reported the results, and the patient was contacted to alert them that their results were available. All of this was the same as it always had been except for the seemingly improved service. The problem was the patient didn’t immediately perceive the improved service. The imaging organization had provided the results quickly to the patient (e.g., fast service) but this was inconsistent with their prior experiences (e.g., delayed service) and thus caused a conflict between the patient’s expectations and the end result. Hence, the frantic phone call.
One of the reasons why this organization historically was delayed in reporting their cases was because their legacy PACS couldn’t keep up with their large study volume across their distributed healthcare enterprise. It took an extended period of time to process the incoming imaging studies, get the new studies (and related prior studies) to the appropriate reading radiologist(s) and for the radiologist(s) to interpret the studies, such that they operated with a daily backlog of 2,500 studies. That means every day this organization had 2,500 imaging studies, from the prior day, that needed to be read by their radiologists before they could tackle the current day’s (new) studies. How were they able to get this elderly patient their results so quickly? Earlier this year, the organization transitioned from their legacy PACS to Visage Imaging’s Visage 7 Enterprise Imaging Platform via a Deconstructed PACS strategy. Within weeks of being live on Visage 7, their backlog steadily reduced until it outright disappeared. No more backlog. Today, their radiologists are reading in ‘real time’, referring physicians and patients are receiving fast results, and fundamentally, new patient expectations are being created everyday. The imaging organization was able to “flip the script” through the use of state-of-the-art technology and refreshed workflow, to break from the past and now provide the best possible service to their customers.
As consumers, we constantly are interacting with retailers and restaurants that ‘attempt’ to cater to customer needs. Case in point, I recently went to Staples to purchase school supplies for my children the weekend before school started. One would think that Staples would have been prepared for this annual event clearly on the calendar, and in some ways
they were. The store had numerous dedicated product areas set up and promoted just for “Back to School”, but the end caps and shelves were hit or miss with available inventory and there were no customer service representatives to be found to help find the obscure items on the Back to School list. Then, when I had filled my cart and finally went to checkout, the line was as far as you could see, cutting clear across the store. Contrary to the signs, this was neither good ‘Customer Service’, nor was it ‘easy’. I expected Staples to be ready for the Back to School onslaught, but instead they were largely going through the motions, and didn’t attempt to delight their customers with a positive experience.
Contrast that experience to Chipotle, where throngs of burrito lovers wait in long lines that snake around and around and around, and sometimes out the door. And yet, their customers wait because they enjoy the value they receive – high quality food at a reasonable cost. This is the brand expectation Chipotle has set and customers have gladly returned for the same experience over and over. But what’s interesting and perhaps not widely known is that they also offer online ordering to dramatically improve the order and checkout experience. If you have the foresight to plan in advance, you can easily go to their website, place your order, and when you arrive at your local Chipotle for pickup, you can bypass the line. Yes, you can head straight to the register and pay for (or simply pickup) your order. No line, no wait. The only downside is the stares from the other patrons snaked in line, who didn’t order online. Chipotle has been able to successfully ‘flip the script’ leveraging technology and workflow changes to change the expectations of their customers.
Sustaining positive customer expectations, and sometimes changing expectations even when your customers don’t realize things need changing is a healthy practice for all businesses whether you sell binders or burritos, or provide diagnostic imaging services. Flip the script, and your customers will have the premier service experience they expect to receive.
General Manager, North America and Vice President, Global Marketing