Improving Your Patient Experience Starts With NPS

Andy Rink, MD
Jul 4, 2020 · 6 min read

Leverage these eight tips to spark word-of-mouth success

NPS. Three little letters that can have a big impact on your business. Whether you’re just beginning with this metric or already consider it is a KPI, one thing is clear — recommendations and word-of-mouth are critical for growth. Many consider it the most important and effective growth strategy you can deploy.

You probably rely heavily on product recommendations in your own life, and you’re not alone. 92% of consumers trust word-of-mouth or recommendations from friends and family above all other forms of advertising. And yet, U.S. ad expenditure in 2019 was approximately $240 billion, while only 33% of businesses were actively seeking and collecting reviews.

So the opportunity is clear, recommendations are essential. And NPS is a great way to set your team up for success, obtain valuable insights on your business and ultimately build impactful, lasting relationships with your patient.

Since day one at Ahead, NPS has been top of mind. We are on a mission to redesign mental healthcare. In an industry rife with red tape and synonyms with poor patient experiences, we knew that turning our patients into advocates would be key to our success. We set out to create something different, a practice built on acceptance and understanding. NPS would be a validator of our work and hold us accountable to the standards we set.

With an NPS of nearly 80 and over 1,000 patient visits last month alone, we’re seeing our vision come to life and I’m excited to share Ahead’s approach to NPS with you here. While your experience may look different, I hope these learnings and suggestions spark conversation within your team.

Make NPS a priority

If it’s not a priority for leadership, you can’t expect it to be a priority for your team. It’s imperative to lay the groundwork and establish NPS as a critical metric for your business. Do it early and reiterate it often. At Ahead, before we launched the company we laid out five core metrics with which to evaluate our business and guide hiring decisions. Alongside revenue, customer acquisition cost, new patient appointments and total patient appointments, we included NPS. Across the company, expectations are aligned and a focus on NPS is inherently woven into the culture.

Go deeper

Looking beyond the overall metric, we give each team at least one sub-KPI that feeds into the overall NPS. For example, our customer service team has a response time KPI. We found that promoters often noted a quick reply from customer service as a reason why they had a positive experience. We knew we needed to make this a priority.

Create accountability

We assign an individual NPS to each provider at Ahead. We set goals, track progress and share feedback regularly. Individual NPS keep our providers engaged in the patient experience. They also enable managers to celebrate those doing a great job and offer additional training or support to those who need it. We found that drops in providers’ NPS are very powerful predictors of problems that need to be addressed.

Don’t guess, know

Take the time to do qualitative customer research. It’s easy to move fast and make assumptions about what your patients want. But it’s better to do the hard work and ask your patients what they need. Before launching Ahead, we spoke with potential patients to understand what they really needed out of a mental health service. We also tried to understand what people didn’t like about existing solutions and made sure never to do those things. We asked questions, listened to their stories and built our product and company around these learnings which helped us secure a high NPS out of the gate.

Hire with a patient-first perspective

When it comes down to it, the people your patients interact with are the most important element impacting your NPS. Patients can forgive growing pains and missteps if they feel empathy from their provider. But feeling unheard and overlooked can do irreversible damage to the provider-patient relationship and destroy NPS.

At Ahead we hire with a patient-first perspective. When we create job descriptions and interview plans, we do it with an ideal employee in mind — someone who doesn’t just have the hard skills, but who can deliver the patient experience we expect. For example, we present case scenarios in our interview process that represent particular patient experiences. The insights we get from this tactic have proved immensely helpful. While this is fairly simple to implement, it’s only useful when we use the answers to guide hiring decisions. This can be very hard when there are significant business needs to grow the team. We have had to make tough decisions and pass on potential hires who otherwise checked all the boxes. But holding ourselves accountable to the standards we set has already begun to pay off exponentially.

Educate and support your team

If you want every member of your company to be driving towards improved NPS, you need to set them up for success. Every new employee at Ahead receives NPS training. We educate them on how their role will influence NPS, and how a great NPS can have huge impacts on the success of Ahead. Our engineers, for example, receive training on building experiences with a patient-first mindset. Front line employees spend time shadowing and learning from current employees who provide great patient experiences.

We also encourage our employees and talk about NPS often. On a weekly basis, we share positive feedback with the entire team. This helps recognize specific people for a job well done, reinforces what our patients love about Ahead and highlights the impact each individual employee can have.

Don’t ignore the negative

Don’t underestimate the power of negative feedback. We personally follow up with all detractors and try to learn as much as possible about what went wrong. The ones who are willing to get on the phone are typically very engaged, passionate and have great ideas on what can be done better. Email follow-up is helpful as well, even if the patient doesn’t engage. By showing that you care and are taking the time to listen and learn, you’re leaving the patient with a better experience than they had previously.

We tag all detractors’ feedback with key categories and then prioritize the list by frequency of the complaint. By doing this we found feedback around expense to be a common complaint. When we dug further we found that it wasn’t so much the dollar amount, but rather the uncertainty around how much the service will cost in the long term. Patients simply had no idea how many visits they would need. The unpredictability of cost was anxiety provoking and, in turn, negatively impacting their overall experience. Our conversations with detractors on this topic markedly informed changes in our product.

Be consistent

We send NPS surveys at regular, predetermined points in a patient’s lifecycle to ensure continual inbound feedback. For example, all patients get an NPS survey 10 days after their first appointment. We feel this is the appropriate time to have had the full initial experience (visit, first Rx delivered and medication started) but is still recent enough that the experience is fresh in their mind. We do this for all patients, without exception.

NPS is not a one time push, but an ongoing initiative. By simply making this metric a priority, you’re already on your way to building a better patient experience, and driving your word-of-mouth strategy forward.

Insights, discussion and analysis from Truepill’s healthcare industry experts

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