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How our hospital uses social media for customer service

Posted Feb 01 2012 5:40pm

by Ginger Anderson

At Scripps Health in San Diego, we've been actively using social media since 2009. Our goal in the space is to build relationships with the San Diego community and position Scripps as a leader in healthcare. A large part of the work is actively listening and responding to customer service inquires and problems on Twitter, Facebook and Yelp.

Have you heard the saying, "Perception is reality"? Our patients are spreading their opinion of us on the internet, and chances are good that their friends and family are going to believe what they say. It's our job to find customers who are talking about us (both bad and good) and make sure they get answers, feel heard, and are satisfied that their feedback results in appropriate action and changes within the system.

Not only do we respond to questions and comments on Twitter and Facebook, but we also spend a lot of time on Yelp. We respond to every single negative review that comes in with an apology and we ask if they're willing to share more details about their experience with us, to help us improve our patient care. We receive messages back from about 25 percent of Yelp reviewers interested in taking us up on that offer, and 99 percent of Twitter and Facebook fans.

Whenever word of an unhappy patient experience or a negative review comes in and patients are willing to share more information, we take the conversation offline and connect the person with risk managers at the appropriate hospital or clinic site. From there, action can be taken on the information collected.

Our tips for online customer service:

  • Make sure you're listening. Set up Google alerts, emails and/or texts to let you know whenever your organization is mentioned online or when a new review is posted.
  • Be timely. Just like your hospital operates 24 hours, so does social media. Responding quickly shows patients you care and are serious about helping them. This doesn't just apply to the person reaching out in the social spaces, but whoever is committed to resolving patient complaints.
  • Lower your defenses. A simple "I am so sorry" and "we want to help" can go a long way. A defensive response usually will backfire--not to mention the patient will probably include a defensive reaction in the story he's passing on to friends.
  • Take action. Listening and responding are worthless unless you're doing something with that information.
  • Share the bad and the good. Motivate employees by sharing positive shout-outs from Twitter and Facebook and great Yelp reviews. Consider including them in internal newsletters in a "social corner."

We recently had a Yelp reviewer come back to his original post, change it from a one-star to a four-star rating just based on the fact that we listened, responded and took action. Imagine the story he is now telling his friends, and how that story changed just because we listened and reached out within 24 hours of his review being posted.

Social media is great for sharing news and connecting with community, but if we're not helping people with the reasons they are in the space, then we aren't doing our job.

Is your hospital using social media for customer service?

Ginger Anderson joined Scripps Health, a leading healthcare provider, in fall of 2009 to develop their social media strategy. She has been recognized twice by the Health Care Communicators with Gold Awards for her work in building a community around Scripps & San Diego. Prior to joining Scripps, Ginger spent eight years working in marketing at Garden Fresh Restaurant Corp. Follow Scripps on Twitter at @ScrippsHealth.

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